“We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to
public office.” –Aesop
Kolya (Aleksey Serebryakov) is a handyman trying to hold on to his property, after a corrupt mayor (Roman Madyanov) in his small Russian village wins a judgement to seize his land. Kolya enlists the help of an old friend and attorney Dimitriy (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) to appeal the decision, but Dimitriy uses tactics that angers the crooked politician, putting Kolya, his family, and Dimitriy in danger.
Leviathan is the age old story of David vs. Goliath; but unlike the biblical tale, Goliath not only wins, but he beats David’s ass beyond recognition.
Kolya isn’t the most sympathetic protagonist; he’s constantly yelling at his wife and child, and anyone else he thinks deserves his wrath. He’s a hard drinking man who loves his life near the sea, in the house he built with his very own hands. Kolya’s wife Lilya (Elena Lyadova), is worn out by life with her volatile husband, and her stepson Roma (Sergey Pokhodaev), who resents her very presence. In his battle with the local government, Kolya’s family pays the biggest price. Roma is distant from his father, and Lilya begins looking for affection elsewhere.
Leviathan begins with Kolya already knee-deep in his legal dispute with Mayor Vadim. It’s like America’s version of eminent domain on steroids, as Kolya must relinquish his land for a tenth of its actual worth (Now that I think about it, maybe it is exactly like our eminent domain laws).
Not one to be told what to do, Kolya hires hot shot Moscow attorney, and old friend Dimitriy to handle his case. Dimitriy is confident that Kolya will win his appeal, because he has a secret weapon that he thinks will force the mayor to back down from his position. However, both men underestimate Vadim, who’s fat and slovenly appearance, and penchant for getting drunk, makes him look like a bit of a pushover —in reality Vadim is a shrewd politician. He may not look the part, but he is an elitist who thinks that Kolya has no business challenging him, and should have the decency to know his place. Mayor Vadim is backed by the power brokers of Moscow, and emboldened to do whatever it takes to get Kolya’s land.
Once you find out why Vadim wants this land, (And I won’t ruin that for you, but let me tell ya, it’s a doozey), but once you find out, you may pull your hair out and scream at your television until your throat is raw —or maybe that’s just me.
Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsey, (who is the director of another favorite film of mine called Elena), in both films Andrey shows that he understands and loves the craft of filmmaking. He takes somber topics and draws you into that world, whether you want to go or not. Leviathan is a film whose outcome is all too real, no happy Hollywood solutions here, the result is what you could imagine happening in real life.
Leviathan is a Russian language film, so ya’ll gonna have to do some readin’. There are a few spots where the words are a bit washed out because of a bright background, however those instances are so few and far between that it won’t even effect the flow of the movie at all. In fact, the subtitles are so smooth, after a while you’ll feel just like you are right there with Kolya and his friends, cursing and yelling, while ingesting bottle after bottle of Vodka.
Leviathan is blessed with a cast of fabulous actors, there isn’t one weak link. Even the children in the film are wonderful. In the special features we see just how adept Zvyagintsey is with the kiddos, convincing one young boy to do a scene over, when the child is very certain that his first take was just fine.
Leviathan (Blu-ray) is a 2.40:1 (1080p) presentation. This little Russian village is run down with dozens of abandoned buildings, and the Blu-ray clearly shows it in all of its dilapidated glory. The DTS HD 5.1 MA audio may seem unimportant in a movie with subtitles, but nay oh skeptical one, hearing that rich and passionate Russian dialogue, only adds to the wonderment of this film going experience. Extras include; a few deleted scenes, a Q & A with director Andrey Zvyagintsev, and a Making of featurette. Leviathan, shows that politics can be ug-o-ly no matter where you hang your hat.
Leviathan can be a difficult film to watch if truth and justice is what you crave. But it is ever so worth the watch because of the directing, acting, and wonderful cinematography of this fabulous Russian import.
Leviathan shows that politics can be ug-o-ly no matter where you hang your hat. Nyet Guilty
Leviathan (Blu-ray) 2014, Fox, 240 minutes, NR (2015)
VIDEO: 2.40:1, 1080p AUDIO: DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Russian, Audio Description Track (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French)
SUBTITLES: English SDH, French EXTRAS: Featurette, Deleted Scenes, Q&A, Commentary ACCOMPLICES: IMDB