Review: Externo

Co-directed by Jonathan Taub and writer, lead actor Leandro Taub, a revolutionary businessman tries to conquer the world with $2,000. Also starring: Christian Bargados and Elisabeth Ehrlich.

The opening of Externo harks back to the films of another filmmaking duo, the Coen brothers, in how they like to play with the truth; although in this case, the events of the film do hit more than close to home. It dives head-first into the satire but what follows is actually a truly observant and intelligent exploration of mass corruption and greed. The writing is wonderfully paced, it’s forever moving forward and revealing more to its story, the gripping quality to it increases over time from the sheer truthful reflection that it has upon today’s world. Its format occasionally feels somewhat similar to the devices that Adam McKay has used in his films but the Taub brothers do it with a lot more class. There’s a fantastic rhythm to it that’s beautifully orchestrated and a pleasure to watch, it’s ultimately layered and has a few complexities that some are more easy to connect with than others but it’s a cleverly constructed and enthralling concept.

It’s a rare thing to see a film using the 3.55:1 ratio, giving such a wonderfully wide perspective, worthy of a big screen but equally as enjoyable from your home. The most interesting thing is that this film is very contained, it mostly follows one man, wandering around various locations and yet it works terrifically well, it gives a more worldly quality to it somehow, befitting its story. It’s a joy to watch, they’ve picked some brilliant locations that are utterly sharp on screen with some great detail, especially in those that are abandoned or deserted. There’s also a quality to it that feels somewhat reminiscent of Charlie Kaufman, it moves to its own beat. It tackles a serious story but the way that it moves and the colours plus its playful score all create a freedom to it, it has a lively and creative attitude to the way it presents itself. Considering that this is the feature directorial debut from both of the Taub brothers, it’s a sincerely impressive achievement, it’s original, artistic, strong and smart filmmaking.

Leandro Taub’s performance is scaled back, it’s almost like an extended monologue but there’s a wonderful patter to the tone of his voice, it holds a great confidence and intelligence, his character is akin to the ultimate con-man and it very much reflects the charm and forthright nature needed. He brings a slickness to the film in how his character feels horrifyingly capable of such dreadful things, only intensified by how likely it is there are such people around the world. Elisabeth Ehrlich adds a mysterious, honest presence to the film, she throws in a little variety, breaking up longer scenes with a significantly different personality. Christian Bargados also makes for a great addition, as an almost narrator, there’s a commanding quality to his voice that feels familiar.

Externo is smart, sharp, observant and artistic. It makes a terrifyingly good point of how easily one person can gain a power that no one should have and yet there are probably several around the world right now who do. It moves at a fantastic pace, the writing is clever and creative, and the direction is enthralling to watch, it’s wonderful to see how they use that lovely wide perspective. It’s a brilliant piece of satire, and utterly impressive how they’ve balanced such a serious topic with a free, creative, artistic atmosphere, it never ties itself down. The fact that it’s the directorial debut from the Taub brothers is almost hard to believe.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

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