For what seems an eternity, Ivan (Gregorie Colin), walks towards a meager tin structure planted in the middle of the colossus Nevada desert – its bronze clay stretching as far as the eye can see. The only other soul around is a guard standing watch, yet Ivan passes by as if he were a ghost. The stone-faced drone pilot hunkers in front of the monitor. It’s difficult determine if the violet bags underneath his dead-set eyes emerged from a current mission or if they’re etched into his complexion. Ivan receives his commands through text-based messages; the drone’s sights following two Middle Eastern men until given the green light. He fires. A rapid beeping increases in both sound and frequency as the missile hurtles towards the men. And once the alarm and deadly projectile hit their respective heart-pounding climax: dead silence.
We then follow Ivan racing his sport bike through the desert’s winding, lonesome roads at breakneck speeds. Arriving at a euphorically lit strip club, Ivan’s apathetic stare is transfixed on an exotic dancer (Lizze Brochere), who we later learn is named Cindy during a date between the two in the very next scene. The brisk cut illustrates her purpose for Ivan, as an equally swift transition shows them having aggressive anal sex – their eyes never meet as Ivan dolefully thrusts from above. Brochere’s youthful complexion holds the very salvation Colin’s cold gaze seeks. He just can’t see it.
Sparing little time, Writer/Director David Verbeek returns Ivan to the black and white Afghanistan. His target: alleged terrorist leader, Al Zaim (Silmane Dazi). Ivan studies the pronunciation of an automated voice, repeating his assignment’s name over and over. Time wasted, a commanding officer implies when Ivan corrects his Afghani dialect during a mission briefing. Shifting to the steely interior the drone control room, he follows Al Zaim to a small complex. After several mute explosions, the feared leader scurries into the building, Command permitting Ivan to waste the structure. Finger on the trigger, Ivan hesitates. Through the drone’s sights he eyes a small child being carried into the very same complex. He plucks a message to Command. His offer of mercy denied. He looks to his co-pilot who offers nothing but a reflection of Ivan’s deadpan despair.
Verbeek articulates the aftermath following the destruction, of what turned out to be an Afghani school, in a way that is dreadfully believable yet subconsciously compelling. Ivan is debriefed by his superiors – the camera, however, transfixed on Colin’s unrelenting gaze. Here, with a single shot, Verbeek exhibits a trio of crucial explanations regarding the film’s surreal progression henceforth. First and foremost, the interviews carry Ivan’s disconnect from society, isolating him from a traditional table scene that would normally present both interviewer and interviewee as equals. What’s more, we, the audience, are put into the position of the interviewer and thus are asked to judge Ivan’s actions; was he following orders? Or was he truly indifferent to pulling the trigger? But as we judge him with our perceived authoritative power, we are essentially granted the same god-like jurisdiction as we would be pushing a button that could a end a life thousands of miles away. And to cap the brilliant sequence off is Colin’s lifeless glare, an icy gaze that remains unbroken through inquires about Ivan’s mental state, and uncut through Verbeek’s bold accord.
Understanding the importance of that scene is a critical aspect to the appreciation of the excellence that is ‘Full Contact.” Regrettably, however, the visual and audible majority of those in attendance at the film’s première during the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival did not. For the sake of preserving the experience, I’ll plainly say the film continues to explore Ivan’s metempsychosis quest for human and Earthly companionship while battling the ghosts of Al Zaim and the Afghani school children. Exploiting the writer/director power, Verbeek tells Ivan’s plight predominately through visuals – continuously pushing the length of shots, forcing you to uncover their meaning lest you’re swept away its eerie beauty. Not to be outdone, Colin broadens Ivan’s palette significantly over a biblical fever dream of a second act before grounding Ivan’s mentality until viscerally bloody conclusion. Colin fully subscribes to the borderline art-house material, setting aside dialogue to not only convey but also excel Verbeek’s vision towards a triumphantly enthralling film. Brochere is another vital element, playing two polar opposite characters in Ivan’s life whilst maintaining mutual quirks to supply equal significance to both of her terrific displays.
During my young film-critiquing career, I have yet to encounter a film in need of championing until “Full Contact.” If you seek a film about drone warfare, Gavin Hood’s upcoming ‘Eye in the Sky’ will likely be more up your ally. But if you even slightly care about one of the most contemporary, visually mesmerizing, hauntingly seductive, visionary pictures to spawn from the past 10 years, please do yourself a favor and watch ‘Full Contact’ whenever or wherever it becomes available.
‘Full Contact’ receives a 5/5.