Review by Dan Skip Allen
Flee is one of those rare films that checks a lot of awards season boxes. It's a documentary, an animated film, and a foreign film. The thing is this film could be checking the biggest box when it gets nominated for Best Picture at next year's Academy Awards. It's worthy of many other nominations in many other categories as well.
Flee tells the story of a man who is giving an interview to another man, a documentarian, about his family's harrowing journey of escape from war-torn Afghanistan following the exodus of the Soviet Union from the country in the late '80s and early '90s. The escape involved separating the family and going to and from a few different countries including a period in Russia.
These people go through quite an ordeal, from being almost drowned in a boat to being under constant scrutiny from the Russian police and also being captured at one point and sent back to Russia. This film was very good at describing these scenes very vividly. That aspect of the film worked very well. The Danish subtitles were fine as well. They didn't move too fast. They were easy to read.
The animation style leaves something to be desired. Even though this is an animated film doesn't mean it's very good. The story and narrative of the film extend toward the overall animation. I feel they wanted to get the documentary aspects correct and that made the animation not as important. It's not anything groundbreaking like Pixar or Disney animation, but it's serviceable regarding the overall context of the film.
As far as documentaries go, this is a great one because of all the different styles involved in making the film. The director, Jonas Poher Rasmussen, used some archival footage and photos to help show the people and places in the film. Amin, the main character, decided to be a bit deliberate in telling his story so the editing of him talking about his family's story was very effective to fit this into the ninety minute run time. It could have gone longer.
Flee premiered at the 2021 Sundance virtual film festival this past January. It was widely beloved by critics who saw it back then. That led NEON, the studio that brought Parasite to an Academy Award for Best Picture win in 2019, to pay the exorbitant amount of one million dollars for the North American distribution rights to the film. They are doing a great job of spreading the word of what an amazing film this is.
These types of harrowing tales of survival are the kind of stories that need to be brought to the big screen. Executive Producers Riz Ahmed and producer Nikolaj Coster Waldau, among many others, got behind this film and they knew what they had. Even though this is the Danish submission for the Best International Feature, it is shared by many countries and many languages are spoken in it as well. It is a film the whole world can get behind. And they should. It's one of the best of the year.
Flee hits theaters on December 3.