I’ve just come out of Angelina Jolie’s latest innocents-being-tortured film, called First They Killed My Father. I saw it this afternoon at the Chuck Jones. Yes, totalitarian brutality is very bad. But it’s also kinda bad when all you do is bludgeon your audience with depictions of same, over and over and over and over.
I know about the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia (’75 thru ’79) . I know about the killing fields and I’ve seen Roland Joffe‘s excellent, same-titled 1984 film. Is it okay to depict the same horrors in a 2017 film? Sure. Is it good to expose younger audiences to this horrific genocide? Certainly.
But I had a very bad time with it, basically because of the lack of a decent story, which I define as one that builds and pivots and is about more than just stuff happening. “A family and their youngest daughter in particular went through absolute hell” is not a story.
I found Jolie’s film deeply boring. I wanted to escape but like those captured and forced into hard labor by the Khmer Rouge, I couldn’t.
Jolie has a thing about brutality visited upon innocents. In The Land of Blood & Honey — Serbs brutalizing Bosnian Muslims. Unbroken — Japanese soldiers brutalizing American POWS. And now First They Killed My Father — the fanatical Khmer Rouge brutalizing and murdering two million Cambodians in agrarian work camps.
Willful, systemic brutality and cruelty, in and of themselves, are not engaging or stirring or even interesting. Savagery abounds in this sad world, but mere depiction isn’t enough.
No thanks. Not for me. To each his own.