Powerful, evocative & thoroughly engrossing, Timbuktu is a riveting portrait of life under the regime of terror that brilliantly illustrates the absurdity of extremist mentality in a sardonic manner while also showcasing the hypocrisy of the Jihadists who themselves are unable to live up to the rules they so blatantly like imposing on the general population.
Timbuktu covers everyday life in the titular city of Mali which is under the occupation of Islamists & covers the harsh life its residents are forced to live, for all leisurely activities are forbidden. The plot centres on a cattle herder & his family who live on the outskirts of the city and are typically free from those terrorists’ interference but an unexpected incident abruptly changes their fate.
Co-written & directed by Abderrahmane Sissako, Timbuktu tackles a provocative subject matter in a very serene manner by sidelining the barbaric brutality that’s inflicted by terrorists upon civilians on a daily basis and instead focuses on the human condition within an oppressed regime. Sissako’s direction exhibits terrific restraint but the script is unable to fill all the voids that exist in between.
The desolate locations & deserted set pieces evoke a grim environment with nearly no signs of life, camera is effectively utilised to capture all the unfolding drama in a clear, concise manner, Editing however is a mixed bag for the subsidiary scenes are more engaging than the main plot, its 96 minutes of runtime feels overly stretched, and music makes its presence felt only when it is required.
Coming to the performances, the entire cast does really well in bringing their characters to life with utmost sincerity & what further helps their act is that the people they play aren’t mere caricatures, thanks to some sensible writing. Despite its grim tone, the graphic violence is kept at bay for the most part but where the film leaves its mark is in moments that demonstrate the jihadists’ oppressive tactics to control people’s lives & faith.
On an overall scale, Timbuktu is a patiently structured, beautifully layered & surprisingly unbiased observation of radicalism & its devastating effects on the lives it touches upon. Skilfully directed & smartly scripted, its arrival is undoubtedly timely and what’s even more admirable is the fact that it dares to portray those zealots as humans blinded by single-minded ideologies but humans nonetheless. Adding more grey shades to what appears black n white from afar, Timbuktu is undeniably worthy of a broader audience.