Salt and Fire (2017)

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2017, XLrator Media/Skellig Rock/Construction Film/Benaroya Pictures/Arte France Cinema/Canana Films

Director:
Werner Herzog
Producers:
Nina Maag
Michael Benaroya
Pablo Cruz
Werner Herzog
Writers:
Tom Bissell (short story “Aral”)
Werner Herzog (screenplay)
Cinematography:
Peter Zeitlinger
Editing:
Joe Bini

Cast:
Veronica Ferres (Laura Sommerfeld)
Michael Shannon (Matt Riley)
Gael Garcia Bernal (Dr. Fabio Cavani)
Volker Michalowski (Dr. Arnold Meier)
Lawrence Krauss (Aristidis/Krauss)
Anita Briem (Flight Attendant)
Danner Igancio Marquez Arancibla (Huancar)
Gabriel Marquez Arancibla (Atahualpa)

What starts out as a kidnapping thriller turns into a battle of wits involving ecology in this latest film from one of the great auteurs of cinema, Werner Herzog.

The United Nations send a delegation of scientists to Bolivia to investigate a potential threat to the ecology of the country after some strange formations have been found. The delegation consists of Laura, Dr. Cavani, and Dr. Meier. At the airport, they meet the wheelchair bound Aristidis, who takes them to the location via a small plane. However, when the group arrives at the location, the trio suddenly finds themselves kidnapped. To make matters worse, Aristidis is one of the kidnappers.

Taken to a location, Laura finds herself separated from both Dr. Cavani and Dr. Meier. She soon discovers the leader of the kidnappers is businessman Matt Riley, who has his own agenda with the recent discovery of the ecological threat. Laura and Matt slowly begin a game of wits until Matt sends Laura to the salt mines with Huancar and Atahualpa, two blind boys. Things come to a head when it is revealed the threat could lead to a deadly volcano eruption. Will Laura be able to go on her own to investigate the surroundings or will it be too late?

If you haven’t seen any of Werner Herzog’s films, then you will be quite interested in them. He is an auteur who takes an idea and somehow brings his vision to life while at times twisting the stories to make them more intriguing and watchable rather than just laying it straight on the line. For his latest film, he takes a Tom Bissell short story and still manages to make it his own film, having adapted the script himself and make it a true Herzog film with ecology as the basis.

What makes this film interesting aside from it being somewhat about the ecology is that it starts out as a kidnapping movie but soon veers off into a battle of wits between Veronica Ferres’ Laura and Michael Shannon’s Matt, two people with very different views on the investigation revolving around some formations near the salt mines of Bolivia. While Laura finds it a potential threat, Matt sees it as something that could be of perhaps some good use. These two are the core foundation of the film while Gael Garcia Bernal, despite having top billing in the marketing, is relegated to an extended cameo, also serving as one of the film’s executive producers alongside Rogue One’s Diego Luna.

Where the film really brings its message out is in the third act, where Laura is forced into the salt mines with two blind boys, played by newcomer brothers Danner Igancio Marquez Arancibla and Gabriel Marquez Arancibla. With its beautiful location as the backdrop for this act, as Laura awaits to see what will happen, she forms a bond with the two boys and a major twist is soon revealed and is in fact a bit shocking and a bit unpredictable, but ultimately brings a message to the film.

Salt and Fire, Werner Herzog’s latest, is an interesting film that melds kidnapping, battle of wits, and ecology with some good performances by both Veronica Ferres and Michael Shannon. If you are a fan of Herzog, check this one out. If you are interested in seeing his films, this may be in fact a starter film.

WFG RATING: B

XLrator Media will release this film on VOD and iTunes on April 4th and in theaters on April 7th.

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