Friday, 2 November 2012

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End of Watch [Review]



Opinion: B+

Found footage attempts documenting the daily affairs of two LAPD police officers on street duty in David Ayer's End of Watch. Throwing technical production values out of the window, it instead opts for authenticity through raw and gritty visuals that are often too shaky to digest. Despite technically challenging for the audience, what they gain in exchange is an alluring drama of the two cops with engaging dialogues and daily calls of mission. One of the best cinematic outcomes since the found-footage trend infected the industry.


A powerful story of family, friendship, love, honor and courage, End Of Watch stars Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as young Los Angeles police officers Taylor and Zavala as they patrol the city's meanest streets of south central Los Angeles. Giving the story a gripping, first-person immediacy, the action unfolds through footage from the handheld HD cameras of the police officers, gang members, surveillance cameras, and citizens caught in the line of fire to create a riveting portrait of the city's most dangerous corners, the cops who risk their lives there every day, and the price they and their families are forced to pay.


End of Watch is not an easy film to consume, particularly the shaky visuals that are often captured by first-person angled cameras (dashboard security cameras, cellphone cameras, pen-sized cameras clipped on shirt pockets). The volatile shaking isn't all, the editing often induces rapid cuts to combine all the footage as well as the third-person observation shots performed by Director of Photography Roman Vasyanov. Given the amount of time (109 minutes) that the audience is subjected to said visuals, there is a good chance of seeing motion sickness as a screening aftermath.

Despite so, End of Watch is a different genre that brings about heightened cop drama through one's close observation of LAPD cops Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavana (Michael Peña). The audience will follow them through their day-to-day cop duties as well as their personal lives, bringing about a contrasting quality that prompts a judgmental opinion of the two characters.

They are cocky, self-indulging, and never exemplary cops. Some of their inappropriate behaviours as law enforcing officers are highly questionable, and both aren't bothered by it (in fact, they go about documenting their daily work vividly on camera). This includes challenging a verbally hostile civilian to a fight within his apartment and breaking down doors without permission. Much like how the film isn't ashamed of its raw footage used, Ayer is likewise not worried about casting his protagonists under a bad light.

Their cowboy heroics are also balanced by some of their softer moments with their loved ones. Zavana has a wife and child whom he faithfully loves deeply, while Taylor is showing a different side to him in front of his newly found girlfriend Janet (Anna Kendrick). In addition, Taylor and Zavana also broadcast a casual side of their close friendship via interesting conversations in between calls of duty thanks to Ayer's script.



The film soars towards a climatic ending that should keep most people at the edge of their seats no matter how shaky the visuals are, which is impressively well-staged with a good balance between drama and plausibility. One cannot help but wonder the extent of observational research that Ayer and his cast must have performed, including the amount of time spent with real LAPD cops. It is reported that the production rehearsed for five months and took 22 days to shoot.

Essentially, the film transcends beyond daily proceedings of a pair of cops and is really about the characters and their acts in response to the adventure they partake. Crimes range in variety from child-abuse to human trafficking and even gruesome hate crimes. It is not how they wrap up the evil-doings and save the day, but rather their response and reactions to them and how it subsequently affects them like every other human being.

End of Watch is a one of the better thematic fusion of fact and fiction largely with the scripted scenarios, cast chemistry, and film techniques. It also puts found-footage to good use and hopefully it can be effectively applied to other fields and genres besides horror.

As long as it doesn't get shakier than this.

1 comment:

  1. This would have been so much better had they skipped the cliched characters and gone with female officers. Instead we get the same male dick cops and their insubstantial, helpless, clueless wives. Did not like this at all, completely bored. Great review, though. Very honest and balanced. :)

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