The Warrior
directed by Asif Kapadia
(Miramax, 2001)

The Warrior is a subtly powerful, beautifully shot movie that carries with it a rare quality of importance. It's a deep, conflicting story that plays strangely on the emotions, relies on disarmingly sparse dialogue and leaves an indelible impression on the viewer. It garnered a number of nominations and awards, including the Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film (the film's director/co-writer, Asif Kapadia, is British, as were several others involved in the production), even though it was denied Oscar consideration as the British entry for best foreign language film because it was in the non-English language of Hindi. Since it is in Hindi, you can expect to depend on subtitles -- but the poignancy and real depth of the story is really revealed through the faces of the actors and actresses.

The Warrior is the story of Lafcadia (Irfan Khan), a warrior in feudal India who, in something of a spiritual moment, lays down his sword and swears to never kill again. Hurrying home, he cuts his hair and that of his son and sets off on a journey "home" to the mountains. His feudal lord, naturally, disapproves of any man leaving his service and demands his head by morning. This leads to a momentous turning point I found quite shocking. It's a little hard to sympathize with a man who has the blood of countless men, women and children (most of them guilty of nothing other than poverty) on his hands, but the tragic events that quickly play out connect you to this man on an emotional level as he begins his trek from the deserts of Rajasthan to the snowbound Himalayas. Along the way, he meets a young thief named Riaz (Noor Mani), who follows and eventually taps into his shell-shocked character, and an old blind woman who easily picks up on the life he is trying to put behind him.

Lafcadia's journey is a spiritual quest of sorts, an attempt to put his murderous past and emotional trauma behind him and find some sort of peace with himself. A warrior's past proves difficult to dispose of, however, as the men who were his fellow warriors continue to pursue him, cutting a bloody swath through several villages along the way toward an inevitable confrontation.

I'm afraid some individuals will see the title and expect a film full of great battles and heroic deeds. While there are a few moments of violence and bloodshed on display, the film is actually a slow-moving, poignant drama that action-seekers may well consider boring. A lot of The Warrior involves a man walking, several minutes can pass without a word of dialogue being spoken, and the ending may not fully click for those who don't make a necessary connection with an earlier moment in the film.

I think The Warrior is a fantastic film that succeeds on a most challenging level, thanks in no small part to the deeply impressive performance of Irfan Khan, which means I apparently agree with movie critics for once.

by Daniel Jolley
18 November 2006

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