By Adam Ray Palmer
My most anticipated foreign-language film from this year’s Berlinale catalogue was Hostages from filmmaker Rezo Gigineishvili.
The true events from 1983 is something I knew little about, and I made sure I wouldn’t read about it beforehand so I could feel the full effect of Rezo’s film.
With a hat, full of talent and a story to tell, I was ready for this biographical drama…
Hostages tells the story that is based on real events that took place in 1983. Seven young Georgians, all from intellectual elite families, attempt to flee the Soviet Union by hijacking an airliner and forcing the plan to land in Turkey instead of its intended flight to Tbilisi. All this events that follow lead to a national tragedy.
We begin by meeting the seven passengers that want to flee the Soviet ruling in Georgia for a better life in Turkey. The seven youngsters are early-20s and have great professions to offer to the world. The problem they are facing is the strict limitations in their country meaning they can’t be who they want to be.
The film is split into two halves. The first half is about getting to know the protagonists. We see them all as close friends, we see them plan their escape and to make matters worse for this tragedy; two out of the seven get married to each other a day before the hijacking. I understand using the word ‘tragedy’ is eyebrow-raising as innocent deaths occurred aboard the plane, but it all just got out of hand. The people who lost their lives could easily be alive today if Georgians could simply travel abroad. Imagine being trapped in a country that has lost its identity and you would risk your life to leave - crazy. The second half of the movie is the ‘action piece’. We see the events on the plane take place and how quickly the incident went downhill. You can’t help but feel for all involved.
For me personally, I enjoyed getting to know the passengers and their families but I expected to prefer the latter half. That kind of through me because I think Hostages slowly became a different film in the final 30 minutes. The tempo sped up but that lost the momentum of emotion that we built up in the first hour. I think it would have been better to focus more on the court sentencing of the few surviving passengers and include pivotal flashbacks - this would have saved time and added suspense.
Overall, Hostages is an important film but it’s scuppered by the second half. It’s great to see this tale on the big screen to learn about the events from 1983 but I’m sure there’s a better way to structure this. It’s certainly worth catching to see the facts of the incident and the people behind it, but don’t expect a 5-star dramatic tale leaving you weeping when the credits roll.
Cineroom’s Rating: 3 Stars
Hostages premiered at the Berlinale on 10th February 2017 – certificate TBC