Film review:
The Warrior

Screened as part of the BAFTA Debut Tour, at Home, Manchester, 3 July

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Showing at Manchester’s Home, as part of a touring season of BAFTA-winning breakthrough films, The Warrior (2001) was the first full length film from Asif Kapadia, who went on in his career to make the stunning documentary movies Senna and Amy.

The Warrior is a tale of redemption about an unnamed swordsman who, in a moment of doubt, turns his back on his life as a hired heavy for a local warlord and sets off for his childhood home in the mountains. Tragedy strikes as the bloody world in which he has lived comes back to haunt him – a rival swordsman is sent to track him down, killing everyone in his path on the hunt for the runaway.

Set in a semi-mythical feudal India, the shots of sweeping deserts and sublime snow-capped mountains, coupled with Dario Marianelli’s rousing score, written especially for the film, make this a surprisingly epic movie for a directorial debut. Although there are plenty of quieter, subtler moments that give this a depth beyond a simple sword and sandals movie. Kapadia’s careful study of the smallest detail brings the warrior’s world to life in the sights, sounds and smells of the Indian villages and valleys that he passes through.

Irrfan Khan excels in the title role, with this film also acting as a launch pad for his career. Talking in an Q&A after the screening at Home, Kapadia revealed that Khan was intent on giving up acting for good, because of a lack of decent work, when he was offered the part. Here, his subtle but clear mannerisms depict a man tortured by his own actions, despite a script that offers little in the way of dialogue to play with.

The Warrior is a fitting entry into BAFTA’s selection of winning films for its Debut Award, which also includes Duncan Jones’s stunning 2009 film Moon. And the film is also a key moment in Kapadia’s career, where his ability to trust in the power of visuals to tell a story, rather than relying on dialogue, led him to create some of this century’s most original and engrossing biographical movies.

For more information about the BAFTA Debut Tour visit The Warrior is available now on DVD

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