Editors Note: “Price is Right” is a running column from local film enthusiast Mr. Price. He reviews selected Strasburg Film Festival films. If he posts a negative review, then the Shenandoah Film Collaborative will respond within his reviews as to why we selected the certain film. By going about it this way, we can help ensure the reader that these are honest film reviews.
From the moment the film drops us into the interrogation room, “The Ascent” takes hold and doesn’t let go. The investigation by detectives Oslo and Cardenas blend seamlessly with the religious and mythological elements delivered in the form of Vince, a man who proclaims himself a fallen angel and the younger brother of Lucifer. “The Ascent” ruminates on the nature of good, evil, and the hope for atonement, all while keeping the audience waiting with bated breath to see what is real and who can be trusted.
While some asides and detours keep the outside world from falling away, the core of this film is the interrogation room which, given the nature of the story, quickly becomes a place of confession in more than the judicial sense. The choice to keep the heart and soul of the film localized in a room with a table, three chairs, and nothing else places the onus entirely on the strength of the script and the performers. And both deliver in spades. Miguel Perez as Detective Henry Cardenas presents a character whose supreme competence can’t quite conceal the wounded man beneath. And Stephen Buchanan as Vince revels in chewing the scenery without slipping into caricature, oscillating from detached to unnervingly intense with ease. Vince introduces himself by telling us he is not human, and Buchanan’s ability to back up that claim in his performance is enhanced by the flawed, painfully human Henry we see as the story unfolds.
Early in the film, Henry lays out the first rule of interrogations as he sees it, “keep them talking”. In a film that keeps the characters and the audience guessing as to who is taking what role in this interrogation, it is a masterfully executed experience to watch these characters keep each other talking.