Triage is a solid if unspectacular war-photographer drama á la Under Fire or Salvador that, while not nearly as energetic as those films, contains some solid performances from a cast including Colin Farrell, Paz Vega and 86-year-old Christopher Lee.
Based on a book by war correspondent Scott Anderson, it’s set in 1988 and shows Irish photojournalist Farrell returning home far worse for wear from an assignment in Iraqi Kurdistan to the news that his best friend (Jamie Sives), who accompanied Farrell, has yet to return himself.
As directed by Danis Tanovic, who made 2001’s similarly-themed No Man’s Land, the film is more effective early on. We witness the horrors brought on by the Anfal Genocide instituted by Saddam Hussein’s regime–a Kurdish doctor (Branko Djuric) shoots wounded Kurdish rebels he can’t save–and watch as Farrell’s need to capture a meaningful shot leads to him nearly being killed.
The second half basically becomes Good Will Hunting for the war set, as Farrell suffers psychologically and his concerned girlfriend (the beautiful Vega) reluctantly asks her grandfather (Lee), a psychiatrist during Franco’s reign of Spain, to find out why. And we discover that, indeed, something major is gnawing away at Farrell.
Farrell’s much better in the first half, by the way, energetic and reckless, prodding his friend for them to stay just one more day so he can get that prize-worthy picture. He’s less successful at showing his character’s pain later on, but he also doesn’t embarrass himself. I still think his best work is in the excellent In Bruges and the decade-old Tigerland.
As the doctor, Djuric (who starred in No Man’s Land) overshadows Farrell, despite far less screen time. His character’s a compassionate, soft-spoken man doing the best he can medically with the pitifully few resources he has. His use of blue and yellow strips to determine who can be saved and who can’t makes for the tensest moment in the movie.
Lee’s the best thing about the film, though, and it’s great to see him in a non-genre role. He apparently had to learn more dialogue for his part here than for anything else he’s done, and the effort pays off. He’s absolutely amazing to watch, Spanish accent and all, be it defending his Franco-era work to Vega, or, in the film’s best shot, telling fellow survivor Farrell that he “must bury the dead.” – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 8/10/10