Edward A. Palmer's "Hippopotamus" is truly a special kind of movie. The ability of any indie film to hold the viewers attention for an hour and a half is impressive. For such a film to do-so, that mainly features just two actors and a single room... is something else entirely. Truth be told, "Hippopotamus" is a shining example of how a great story and some excellent talent can really push the indie film scene forward, reminding us that sometimes, a hundred million dollar budget is not needed to entertain.
Starting off feeling like yet another "Saw" inspired movie and genre, "Hippopotamus" slowly slips away from the tried and tired style you pretty much expect, after watching the first few minutes. As this story of apparent kidnapping plays on, it morphs into the much more interesting psychological thriller Edward Palmer seems to strive for. The violence is minimal, mainly saved for the last segment, and this really is a film for the thinking person. Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting this is a boring endeavor by any stretch, yet it's also not rape, torture and violence showcased on your screen. This is the definition of a slow burn. Maybe not everyone's cup of tea, but easily my own. I truly appreciated watching the film thinking: "That would never happen like that" and later on during the movie, realizing I had been misreading what was going on all along. That those "odd" instances actually made perfect sense. The ending itself? Maybe not completely surprising in hindsight, yet disturbing and sad enough to be completely satisfying on near every level. Sad you ask? Yes. Quite sad actually. However, hidden within the sadness was also a glimmer of hope. Another production element I was more than happy to have witnessed.
Speaking of the production, let me touch up on the technicalities of this film. To be honest? It was very well done. I realize that having a film mainly take place in one indoor location, makes a production that much easier. At the same time you need to consider that keeping us viewers interested, in the happenings of a bleak location, is not an easy task at all. The script and dialog need to be damn near perfect. The edit has to be great and yes reader, the acting has to be top-notch. Ingvild Deila and Stuart Mortimer do exceptional jobs as our two main players. Actually, aside from a few random appearances at the end of the film, these two actors are our only players. So imagine a feature length film, set in one location with only two characters. Doesn't sound all that entertaining does it? Yet strangely... in this case it is. "Hippopotamus" owes a lot to the excellent casting. A lot indeed. Sure. The story obviously needs to be a good one... but even the best story can fall flat if the cast isn't up to the challenge. Did you happen to notice my personal rating at the top of this write-up? That essentially should answer all your questions on quality and entertainment.
In the end, "Hippopotamus" ended up being a film right up my proverbial alley. Fans of lightning fast action or horror sequences may not like this title quite as much as I did, but I'm guessing even they would consider this an all around good film. Nicely written, acted and executed make this indie gem one of the best I've seen this year. The familiar setting quickly established "Hippopotamus" as a potentially good movie, and the genre turn-around ensured an excellent one. Easily a title I would/will purchase when it becomes available, and a great example of "independent" done right. Something the entire cast and crew should be proud of. As for the name of the film itself? Guess you'll have to watch to find the connection.
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