the last witness
Director: Piotr Szkopiak (small time obsession)
Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Talulah Riley, Robert Wieckiewicz, and gwilym lee
REVIEWER: lyall carter
An ambitious young journalist uncovers the horrific slaughter of 22,000 Polish officers during World War II, a secret which has been kept hidden for many years.
When I saw the trailer for The Last Witness I found it incredibly intriguing: a terrible but needed to be told story being brought in all of its horrific glory. Unfortunately the execution from great true story to the silver screening was left wanting.
Stephen Underwood, a reporter on a small local newspaper in the Bristol area, stumbles on the suicide by drowning of a soldier from an internment camp for displaced Poles. The drowned man leads Stephen to the nearby internment camp for displaced Poles where he discovers the presence of Loboda, a Russian. This leads Stephen into a web of cover ups, deceit and mass murder as he seeks to uncover the truth.
Director Piotr Szkopiak's grandfather was one of the soldiers slaughtered at Katyn which is the story that The Last Witness explores. But despite having such a strong, personal connection to the story, The Last Witness doesn't feel strong or personal at all.
For a story not only personal to the director but also horrific it feels as if we, as the audience, are emotionally kept at arms length. The magnitude of the slaughter is kind of glossed over.
From a film making point of view its not strong either. The editing work leaves a lot to be desired with some strange transitions and cuts and the colour grading is slightly off. The pace of the film feels also feels quite stifled as if the film makers don't really know where they are attempting to narratively head. Even the film's opening feels a little odd and distracted with a black screen and narration being interrupted by credits. Kinda bizarre.
The actors try there best with clunky dialogue but ultimately its a bridge to far. Although Michael Gambon is featured on the cover art his performance is brief and at the beginning and the end. Maybe he knew best to stay as far away as he could.
A story that deserves to be told but by some other film makers.