While Ex Machina is definitely the best made film I’ve seen at the festival so far, The Frontier is probably my favorite. That is of course all based on personal taste. And as far as my personal taste goes, I love film noir. And The Frontier is a film noir. No, not a tribute to film noir, it actually feels like someone took a crime film from the 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s, like The Big Heat, The Killers, or Murder My Sweet and colored it – but not in the bad way – which is actually kind of interesting because the director, Oren Shai said after the screening he was actually inspired by 70’s filmmaking. The dialogue is quick and snappy, every character has secrets – secret pasts, secret motives, secret identities – and the setting (a dead end diner in the middle of nowhere) gives a sense of hopelessness, yet the proceedings manage to still feel pretty fun. Part of this was helped by the fact that the dialogue and style never felt like a gimmick (not to me, at least); it felt natural to the characters and story being told.
So, what’s The Frontier about. Pretty simple (at first), a girl on the run (from something) takes refuge in the aforementioned dead end diner, where a bunch of shady characters (like a domineering waitress, a perverted highway patrol officer, and a dotty couple) converge. Then things become not so simple when all those aforementioned secret pasts, motives, and identities come to light.
And the characters are another reason this film might be my favorite. They have such great exchanges with each other, they’re all interesting in one way or another, and I guarantee your opinion of every single one of them at the movie’s end will be different from your opinion at the beginning. It’s helped too that the actors play off each other so well. And they have to, because the majority of the action here is just people talking to (or yelling at, or threatening) each other – honestly this is one of those films I could see working as a stage play (only one major location, remember). In the end, they were all so good I can’t really pick one standout (although I did enjoy Jamie Harris’s mustachioed Englishman with some odd relationship issues).
Maybe it’s just the warm afterglow of a fun film, but I can’t at this time think of anything negative to say about The Frontier. If I do, you’ll be the first to know.