Charlie LYONS, Miranda DE PENCIER, Guy JON LOUTHAN
Timofey Berezin (Paddy Considine) works at a top-secret, badly rundown plutonium plant in a remote Russian town. At the film's outset, he is exposed to radiation while selflessly trying to stop a malfunction. The facility's draconian managers maintain his exposure was negligible, while accusing him of sabotage and suspending him. Loyal coworkers, however, help Timofey discover the truth: he was exposed to one thousand REMs of radiation (the citizens of Hiroshima received less). He has acute radiation poisoning and only days to live. This tragic premise sets the stage for Scott Z. Burns's remarkable and cutting debut feature, which is the latest provocative release creatively fuelled by Section Eight, George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh's production house. Before Timofey's adoring wife, Marina (Radha Mitchell), is fully aware of his fate, he has left for Moscow on a mission to secure a better future for her and their young son. He hooks up with a small-stakes gangster, Shiv (Oscar Isaac), in hopes of finding a buyer for a vial of weapons-grade plutonium he has stolen. It's 1995, only a few years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and their demented Moscow night hurtles them through the hotels, nightclubs and private palaces of the new underworld, and ricocheting between two rival crime lords (charismatic, terrifying performances by Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Steven Berkoff). However, what Timofey and Shiv never realize is that they are both caught in the same vise: trying to find a way free of a certain fate, hoping to do right by their loved ones before it is too late. The stunning cinematography soars from impossibly green woods to the scintillating lights of the city, but settles, again and again, on Considine's face. Further proving the depth of his talent, he is perfect in every mannerism and line of dialogue. Timofey is stoic to an extreme but his brilliant meditations about his plight, and that of humanity in general, are tremendously resonant. The frenetic Shiv, on the other hand, has a bristling energy. Everything that comes out of his mouth - and those of his two bumbling partners in crime - manages to be darkly hilarious. And you won't believe where the plutonium winds up.