The Act of Killing

Metascore
89

Universal acclaim - based on 30 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 27 out of 30
  2. Negative: 1 out of 30

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Critic Reviews

  1. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Jul 26, 2013
    25
    The effect is intended to be ghastly – which it certainly is – but I was equally repelled by this film’s conceit. Oppenheimer allows murderous thugs free rein to preen their atrocities, and then fobs it all off as some kind of exalted art thing. This is more than an aesthetic crime; it’s a moral crime.
User Score
8.3

Universal acclaim- based on 93 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 13
  2. Negative: 2 out of 13
  1. Sep 11, 2013
    0
    Going into The Act of Killing I expected to be shocked and appalled and I was but not for the reasons I imagined. A fearless look at a groupGoing into The Act of Killing I expected to be shocked and appalled and I was but not for the reasons I imagined. A fearless look at a group of people alive today and their inner most thoughts about a dark time in Indonesian history. The kicker? These people are monsters and director Joshua Oppenheimer is unfortunately giving them a voice. The film follows Oppenheimer as he interviews a group of Indonesian death squad executioners responsible for the mass communist genocide that took place in 1965, a horrific period in Indonesian history carried out by these so called subjects. The film is crass and lacks any kind of remorse as it ridicules the children of those who died, shows the wonderful lives that these killers now have and glorifies an action that took over a million lives. The Act of Killing is a disgraceful picture designed to disturb as to inspire action. However Oppenheimer must know the futility of his struggle and the inevitability of his failure so his creation of this rubbish only serves to entertain his interviewees. Not only does the film give them a pulpit to shout out their propaganda but it also treats it all as alright, a necessary evil. The Act of Killing breaks the cardinal rule of documentary film making, it doesn't have anything in it worth telling the rest of the world, it doesn't have a purpose beyond mocking the dead. Full Review »
  2. Jul 29, 2013
    2
    Ground breaking documentary technique vies with unpleasant content and despicable characters to produce a reaction in me that, whilstGround breaking documentary technique vies with unpleasant content and despicable characters to produce a reaction in me that, whilst acknowledging the film makers skill, has me repulsed by the film itself. That these people, guilty of such atrocious crimes, are still walking around freely, without conscience and living in relative opulence is absolutely abhorrent to me. I understand that the point of documentary film making is to uncover truths and depict life as it is. I also recognise that my strong reaction against the film (or at least the content) is precisely the point, but the casual re-enactments of the crimes seems wrong to me. One character actually states that he would like to be famous. Well, whether for the right or wrong reasons this film certainly gives him his time in the sun.

    Disregard for life is also demonstrated with animals when the lead protagonist shows the crew around his stuffed collection proclaiming nonchalantly that he had personally killed the black Rhino, whilst dismissively pointing out that the species was near extinction.

    Content aside, the print under review is the director's cut which at 159 minutes is excessively long and when not shocking has extremely boring interludes, with some edits appearing just chaotic. The last 20 minutes or so when Anwar Cong, one of the killers, shows remorse by crying and later gagging (as if to vomit) is just an insult to all his victims as well as being extremely distasteful.

    I am aware of all the superlatives that the documentary has been receiving, both written and oral, and it must be said that the audience that I viewed the film with stayed in their seats well into the end credits and left very subdued, but I did approach the film reluctantly and with caution.

    The use of John Barry's beautiful song 'Born Free' emphasises the ugliness of everything else going on, I don't dispute that it is powerful film making, but I also can't dispute that I hated it!
    Full Review »
  3. Apr 8, 2014
    9
    The opening sequence (which I won't spoil) begs the same question that the entire film does: Are you serious? Is this real? Apparently theThe opening sequence (which I won't spoil) begs the same question that the entire film does: Are you serious? Is this real? Apparently the answer is yes.

    The film revolves around Indonesia; which despite being an enormous country is pretty much a mystery to most of us. The paramilitary gangsterism described is brutal. The specific individuals being focused on are essentially a group of thugs who try to make a movie about their own rise to power, while being followed around by the documentarians. Their apparent lack of insight into their own situation is mind-boggling, and yet they sometimes have a very informative perspective on the rest of the world.

    Besides the disturbing nature of the politically motivated genocide that its subjects participate in, the surprising thing about this documentary is that it subverts Hollywood-driven expectations. These are the bad guys, and they not only admit but flaunt their own atrocities, but they essentially have one. Decades after rising to power they remain figures of influence, and there is nothing to suggest that any of them will ever be held accountable. Their own journey towards (perhaps?) understanding what they did as they make their propaganda film is the only justice they'll likely ever see. This documentary offers a surprisingly intimate picture into that journey.
    Full Review »