Reclamation (2012) – By Cary Conley

The time is the near future, perhaps just a few years ahead. Russia and China have joined forces to conquer America and they seem to be doing a good job of it. A year ago, they poisoned the water with a biological agent and then sat back and waited for the agent to do its dirty work. Once the contamination had decimated the country, Russia and China then moved in with ground troops. The initial invasion was easy, with hardened Commie soldiers rounding up what was left of the sickened citizens of America and massacring them genocide-style. In the midst of this violence David arrives home too late to save his fiancée from the homicidal soldiers. He sets out on foot with a few cans of food, a map, and a deep and abiding hatred of the Russian and Chinese. His goal is to make it to Canada and freedom.

But along the way he runs into a wounded Russian foot soldier. Filled with anger and hatred, nevertheless David cannot bring himself to kill the soldier. The two forge an uneasy relationship based upon mutual need. The Russian, traumatized by the mass killing that took David’s fiancée, views the act as a war crime. He did not participate and wants only to go home to see his family. David, on the other hand, would like to avenge his fiancée and his country by turning the Russian over to the Americans. He is blinded by anger and cannot see the humanity of the Russian.

Reclamation is a character drama set in an undetermined near-future war. It pits two sworn enemies together in a fight for survival, if only the two men can learn to trust each other. At first David rages at the Russian while the Russian acquiesces meekly to David’s demands, hoping only to not be shot. But as the long, cold winter melts into spring, the two companions learn a great deal about the true nature of the other. In one instance the pair come across a dead soldier lying in the road. David begins to scavenge whatever may help them to survive; however, the Russian takes the time to bury the soldier, even in the face of approaching danger. It’s as if director Nate Horowitz is asking the audience, "Who’s the animal now?" It is an important moment in the film as the Russian, who has been a sympathetic character throughout the film, now is truly portrayed as human. Even David grudgingly admits this as he grasps the soldier’s hand in an act of camaraderie.

Horowitz has created an emotionally powerful film, one that asks fundamental questions about love, life, and how one should deal with a sworn enemy. In the end it seems that the Americans are able to finally turn the tide as they begin to reassert their dominance. But Reclamation is about more than the Americans reclaiming their country. It’s about reclaiming humanity in the face of grave inhumanity, about reclaiming hope in the face of hopelessness. Even as the two protagonists first gain a grudging respect for each other that eventually turns to admiration and even camaraderie, the ending is left open. Do the two forge a true friendship? Does David turn the soldier over to the Americans and to a sure death? Are the pair able to eventually make their way into Canada and possible redemption? The audience never finds out, but that’s alright because Reclamation isn’t about the destination, it’s about the trip.

The acting is solid, with Christian Gray portraying the Russian, Dmitri, and Nick Stockwell as the heartbroken David. The film rests squarely on the shoulders of these two actors and they are excellent in their roles. Horowitz’ direction is solid and his use of muted colors and washed-out film lend a gritty realism to the story. A particular high point is the original score by Luke Wieting. Alternately subtle and powerful, it is superb and gives the film deep emotion.

Reclamation is making the rounds at festivals and will be available to purchase soon at http://www.ntgfilms.com/reclamation.html. If you are able to catch a festival screening, the film is certainly recommended, or simply check the website for more information about purchasing a DVD of Reclamation.