“Ten years apart, the Liberian civil war of 2003 and the ongoing conflict within South Sudan today, share a singular brutality of corrupted innocence. A corruption of innocence only known to the West, by any remotely common degree through the brutality of an impossible love shared by a man and a woman” the film’s opening statement.
It’s 2014 Cape Town, South Africa and we find Medical Dr. Wren Petersen (Charlize Theron), UN representative and daughter of the founder of MDM (Medecines Du Monde), coming to grips with her past. It’s a private moment just prior to taking the stage to deliver a message at a fund raiser with a large audience of her peers.
While waiting to take the stage she thinks back to 1982 Paraguay where as a preteen she accompanied her father as he gave medical care to the needy. It became her passion to one day be like her father and take on projects to help those in peril throughout the world.
Flash back ten days before the fund raiser to Rebels invading a small U.N. Base in Malakal, South Sudan, Africa. Here Dr. Miguel Leon, MD (Javier Bardem) a medivac doctor and a member of Doctors Without Borders enters the violence attending to the people injured by gunfire. The situation gets overwhelming.
The movie vacillates between Miguel Leon’s determination to save the civilians in some of the worst ravaging of Sudan and Liberia and Wren Petersen’s quest to bring the world nations together to stop the genocide of the African people. Director Sean Penn (Into the Wild) offers a film that’s a bit complicated to those who cannot follow the flip flop of time and location changes. With it being on home video however, there’s always a chance to replay the film from the beginning so you can better put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Why the screenwriter chose to show the story in flashbacks and flash forward, a technique that sometimes works, it’s hard to determine. But, the film works as a showcase to the abominable wars taking place in African countries.
A considerable effort on the part of the fine actors and the cinematography is extremely good, but the length of the film combined with an overload of dialogue makes The Last Face a hard watch. However, The Last Face brings to the forefront the plight of nations under siege by rebel groups that don’t care about innocent civilians in their path.
The acting by Bardem and Theron in the long winded film is exceptionally good. As Miguel, a doctor possessed with stitching up the wounded and administering lifesaving medical attention during the most tenuous situations, Bardem looks very realistic. He works an extreme number of hours never giving up on a patient before turning to another.
Theron takes on a character that wants to continue her father’s legacy of bringing medicine to countries with the help of the United Nations. Wren’s a strong minded fighter for saving lives and urging nations to enter the challenge to help innocent victims of the wars in Africa. Wren may have a lighter touch than Miguel when it comes to dealing with civilians, but her passion for helping the afflicted is as strong.
“Picturing: The Last Face”- Producer Bill Gerber talks about the political aspects of the film involving refugees. He also talks about Sean Penn’s attachment to the film. Andrew Laws the production Designer chimes in about how the film had to be set up to show the pain and suffering. Executive Producer John Kuyper talks about Penn’s work as a director. Bill Pohlad who was a producer on the project talks about realism. Several other crew members who worked on the film including costumes, locations add their thoughts.
The Last Face has been rated R by the MPAA for strong bloody violence including disturbing images of war atrocities, language, and brief sexuality. The victims of the fighting are shown in ghastly scenes of burned out villages.
FINAL ANALYSIS: A good film that brings with a timely message. (3.5 out of 5 stars)
Specifications and additional video information:
Cast: Charlize Theron, Javier Bardem, Jared Harris, Jean Reno, Denise Newman, Oscar Best, Zubin Cooper, Sebelethu Bonkolo, Hopper Jack Penn. Director: Sean Penn. MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence including disturbing images of war atrocities, language, and brief sexuality. Genre: Drama, Romance, War. Running Time: 2 hrs. 11 min. bbbVideo Release Date: September 5, 2017. Original Theatrical Release Date: July 28, 2017. Language: English. Reviewed Format: Blu-ray. Audio: Blu-ray- 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, DVD- Dolby Digital 5.1. Video: 16×9 Widescreen, Aspect Ratio 2.40:1. Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish. Number of Discs: 1 Disc + Digital Ultraviolet HD code. Distributed by: Lionsgate