Venice Wrap: Our 5 Favorite Films Of The Festival, Plus Our Complete Coverage


SEPTEMBER 7, 2012 4:10 PM

The Venice Film Festival is done for another year. Actually, that’s far from true: the festival doesn’t wrap up til tomorrow, when top gong Golden Lion, and other prizes, will be awarded. And since we departed on Wednesday, a few more high-profile films have been unveiled, including Brillante Mendoza‘s “Thy Womb” (word on which is fairly middling), Robert Redford‘s ”The Company You Keep” (which we hear is the actor/director’s best since “Quiz Show,” and Brian DePalma‘s “Passion” (thanks to Jamie Dunn for reviewing that for us on the Lido).

Although we can’t say we’ve had much to compare it to, we’ve found the last two years in Venice to be a blast: going to work every day on a boat takes some beating, and we can’t imagine that many festivals can compare with the faded glamor of this festival, or the diverse and exciting range of world premieres.

All that said, Alberto Barbera‘s first year (back) in charge could probably only be deemed a middling success. Last year saw us give three top grades (to “Wuthering Heights,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and “Alps,” but there were also some real disasters (“W.E.” and “A Burning Hot Summer“). This time, the selection was deemed, not least by us, to be more or less down the middle — few, if any, train wrecks, but also few films that truly knocked critics’ or audiences’ socks off. And that’s something that’s reflected in the list of complete reviews from Venice (from best to worst) that you can find below.

Still, there are bound to be teething problems when a festival gets a change of leadership, and there was something to like in even the most disappointing films we saw — the performance of Riz Ahmed in festival opener “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” or those of Jason Bateman and Frank Grillo in “Disconnect.” All in all, it was a thrilling and challenging week at the movies. You can read about our five favorites below, along with links to our complete coverage, ranked from best to worst, at the bottom. 


“A Hijacking”
For various reasons (mostly business), it took us a couple of days to get around to reviewing this Danish/Norwegian under-the-radar gem, which we basically walked into on a whim. So we were as surprised as anyone to realize, as we wrote it up, that “A Hijacking” had sneakily become our favorite film of the festival. A docudrama-style tale about the fictional capture of a Danish cargo freighter, and the months-long, drawn-out process to free its crew, directorTobias Lindholm (a recent collaborator of Thomas Vinterberg, and co-writer of cult TV series “Borgen“) fails to sensationalize the material, or include anything that doesn’t feel entirely truthful. Grippingly shot, beautifully acted and enormously powerful, it was the best surprise we’ve had all year.