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Movie Reviews

[Fantastic Fest ’21] ‘The Execution’ review: Russian serial killer mystery will transfix audiences

Memories of murder.

The Execution is a sprawling thriller about a recently promoted police chief who has just learned the serial killer case he solved to make his career may not actually be closed. In order to save face – and his new position – Issa Valentinovich takes it upon himself to find out what has really happened. But as the USSR crumbles and the pressure mounts, the case becomes about more than putting the clues together.

The film alternates timelines and points of view to tell its story. The Execution is able to expertly keep the audience guessing what is going to happen next without being meandering or confusing. Considering the scope of the plot, this is very impressive. The Execution is also adds twists and turns without making the story seem dependent on them. The investigation takes place over years and it only makes sense there would be a number of false leads and close calls. The weaving story may get complicated, but it remains fascinating the entire time.

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What separates the film from similar ones are the outside pressures Valentinovich is facing. On the surface, it sounds simple. Many stories have seen the main investigator have to deal with eager bosses or politicians. While that is in The Execution, it takes on more meaning. It is not just the government and public that want the killer caught. It is an entire nation that is changing.

[Fantastic Fest '21] 'The Execution' review: Russian serial killer mystery will transfix audiences

This is captured brilliantly in the story. The USSR was once a superpower and its people now had to accept a smaller place on the world stage. It adds a heightened sense of tension and dread. The Execution is broken into chapters with each named after a different stage of grief. This draws the audience deeper into the mystery. It is about more than solving a case; it is about finding peace with one’s self. The film also boasts powerful performances that make is a must see for fans of the genre.

Fantastic Fest takes place from September 23 – September 30. Check out AIPT’s ongoing coverage.

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