Its other qualities aside, this film's premise alone will sell or repel most folks: we follow an unnamed Taliban fighter who, having killed several American soldiers in Afghanistan, is captured, 'processed', and whisked away to (I think) Poland, where he manages to escape and must elude his pursuers. The Age described it as "the action movie of the year" to which I must say: what the fuck? There's certainly action in it, but I wouldn't call it an action film. The last reel in particular wanders from that track entirely and takes a seat with the arthouse crowd.
So... what of it? I don't know, but I have some thoughts. The film is called "Essential Killing", yet were all his kills actually essential? The lumberjack was problematic. The film seems to agree: his clothing - white until that point - runs red with blood. Yet he doesn't relish killing, indeed his physical deterioration seems to echo his spiritual anguish. But is that enough to save him? There's a white horse at the end. Or at least, that's what the film shows us. I don't think there actually was any horse. But this is a white and beautiful horse and our protagonist too is clean and freshly dressed. And then he coughs up blood, spoiling its white mane.
This is a film about perspective, the drive to survive and what that can mean for our humanity. It doesn't give us answers, but rather is content to provoke thoughts. It's not a great film, but one could do a lot worse.
On a final note, this film has some wonderful cinematography. There's a silent helicopter shot in particular which is breathtaking.