Duty

By Ivan Smirnov 714 | Drama
A police officer interrogates a prostitute who killed his comrade. Then he pushes the limits.

An inexperienced young police investigator is interrogating a sex worker named Olga. But Olga isn't just anyone: the newly minted officer knows she stole from and killed his comrade, and he's determined to put her behind bars.

But as the case proceeds, he realizes that bringing Olga to justice is a long, winding road through a labyrinthine legal system. His only chance is to make her confess before she enters the legal system. To do so, he must subject Olga to intense psychological pressure, pushing at his limits of human decency.

Written and directed by Ivan Smirnov 714, this tense, stylishly shot short crime drama has both corruption and seediness inherent in its subject matter. But it also has a fundamental philosophical interest in notions of law and justice, as one young man wrestles with his conscience and the pressure to avenge one of his own.

The storytelling is built around an interrogation scene, which forms the heart of the direct conflict between the officer and Olga. But this scene is interwoven with flashbacks of the crime itself, as well as the pressure that the young police investigator faces drudging a confession from Olga as quickly as possible. Otherwise, his superior says, Olga will likely plead insanity, undergo a psychiatric evaluation and take years to come to trial.

The writing weaves all these elements together in a fascinating pattern, setting up the scene and conflict but then complicating our picture of it with new information. Though the film has the cool, gleaming look and dissonant electronic score of a contemporary thriller, it differs in the storytelling's interest in developing the young officer's internal conflict.

Actor Anton Vohmin plays the young investigator as serious, dutiful and even idealistic, with an allegiance to the institutions he's pledged his loyalty to. But perceptive dialogue reveals he's also ethical, with expectations of due process and fair treatment that are quickly dashed. His belief in justice and order is slowly chipped away during the investigation, especially when he is pressed to make Olga confess. To do so, the young policeman must drag Olga through the particulars of the crime again. Essentially he forces her to relive the sexual trauma she experienced, creating a psychological powder keg with unexpected ramifications.

Tense and compelling with each beat, "Duty" examines the difference between law and justice, and the way such notions get twisted and manipulated within a larger system congealing with competing self-interests and agendas. Our young hero is caught in the middle, torn between his loyalty to his comrades and his sense of honor. Either way, he chooses, he loses something, leaving him disillusioned and dissatisfied.




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