If you're not into torture or subtitles, this may not be the film for you. I know, that's a weird combination to be throwing out as a warning at the beginning of a review, but it had to be done. Ok, don't say I didn't warn you.
Similar to the other 2013 film Prisoners in more ways than one, the Israeli film Big Bad Wolves tells the story of a rogue police officer, a teacher, and a ex military dad. What do these people all have in common? They are trying to come to grips with the disappearance of two young girls.
Let's talk about the opening sequence of this film. I'm obviously not going to spoil anything, but this could be the best, suspenseful opening sequence I have ever seen, if not the best opening sequence I have ever seen, period. The music is unbelievably eerie and the cinematography and use of slow motion all convey a sense of doom phenomenally well. So well in fact, that I found myself unconsciously saying out loud, “Oh my God...That was well made!” after it was done. Yeah, I was that moved by it. It was on the level of the opening from the overlooked film Brick with Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
As I briefly mentioned before, the music is amazing. I typically don't mention music in my reviews. Maybe I should, but it typically isn't noteworthy enough to mention, as far as a short review goes in my estimation. Either way, the score by Frank Ilfman definitely is and I want to give props to him for creating such beautiful tones of mystery, intrigue, suspense and tension.
Something else I don't typically mention is cinematography. Sure, I'll mention visuals, but straight up camera work is another thing. I am definitely not an expert when it comes to cinematography, but I do know enough to say the smooth angles, closeups, fade aways and positioning of the camera as scenes progress are a marvel to watch. One can notice when something is shot without any inspiration or motivation. This is definitely not the case.
As far as the overall plot, it is well thought out and very difficult to watch. Much like the film Prisoners, there are some very grueling scenes which involve torture. I would go more into that, but I would like the film to be a surprise to anyone who hasn't seen it yet.
I'm not going to go any further without addressing the elephant in the room of this feeling similar to Prisoners. There are definitely similarities but there are definitely distinct differences. This film has a comedic aspect in it, that is both incredibly disturbing, yet admittedly hilarious at the same time. Prisoners of course is straight up drama in its mystery and doesn't have time for that. The acting from Hugh Jackman in Prisoners was Oscar Worthy, but the chemistry between the actors in Big Bad Wolves I would say is better. What this film has over the other in my view is better pacing. While Prisoners drags on without the end in sight, this film is quick to the point without compromising the tone of the film.
Now we come to the flaws of the film. When I finished this film I honestly was going to give this a 5/5 on how well it was made. That being said, I was rather confused because even though I couldn't find a flaw, I didn't really care for it that much. This of course happens with me from time to time, not liking a film that is well made. However, there was something more besides the obvious of not being into torture sequences and a claustrophobic storyline. When I searched deeper I came to the conclusion that it is because there is nothing that deep or profound that I could find with Big Bad Wolves. Intriguing things happen, then the film ends. So for an hour or so, I searched reviews of this film trying to see if there was a deeper meaning which I believe a film involving torture needs to merit a 5/5. When it came down to it, everyone had a different idea of what the message in this film is, some involving the Israeli history to the merits of an “eye for an eye”. All of them seemed to agree though when it came down to it, that this film threw out questions on the ethics of torture. That being said, it never seems to search deeper into these questions, leaving a disturbing sense that this film has shock value for the sake of shock value. I agree with Nick Schager, movie critic, the most when he says,“Questions about the efficacy of torture, and vengeance, are raised but never fully reckoned with by Big Bad Wolves”. When it is all said and done, Big Bad Wolves is an intensely well made film whether I like it or not. However, what Prisoners had that this didn't is any compelling theme or something to think about the next day. My personal preference: 2.5/5
How well it was made: 4.5/5