First published by Sight & Sound
A landmine is all latent potential. It lies hidden, sometimes for years, and then when triggered brings indiscriminate death and devastation to all caught in its vicinity – which also makes it a horrific device for cinematic suspense, as well as a powerful metaphor. Landmine Goes Click, from Georgian director Levan Bakhia (247˚F, 2011), may come with a title that seems staggeringly literal, not least since in its opening act American tourist Chris (Sterling Knight), out hiking with his best friend Daniel (Dean Geyer) and Daniel’s fiancée Alicia (Spencer Locke) in the Georgian mountains, steps on an explosive device. Yet as Chris must stay immobile for fear of releasing the kill switch, local man Ilya (Kote Tolordava) arrives and spots an opportunity for some sadistic sexual power play – which will end with all the collateral damage and unintended consequences of a real landmine, except that this one is purely figurative.
Landmine Goes Click begins as a variant on Hostel (2005), with Americans abroad finding themselves entrapped in foreign hostility – but by the time it has twisted its way to the bitterest of conclusions, a horrid symmetry of experience has been imposed on the host country, and Chris is left frozen and wrong-footed by the explosive aggression that he finds buried not so deep within himself. Trace the blast pattern to its source, and you see a causal chain leading all the way back to a ticking timebomb of errant masculinity, exposed for all its emptiness. This makes for very uneasy viewing, as every female character becomes a pawn in these men’s vicious Funny Games. By the time Chris says to Ilya – but also direct to the camera, and therefore to us – “Do you like this? Do you like seeing this?”, the film’s confronting tensions have come full circle, and Bakhia delivers the terrible, violent detonation that we have been dreading, but also desiring, right from the moment we saw the film’s title. Its payload is powerful enough that no-one can emerge looking pretty or feeling comfortable.