Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 10:05 PM

  • Share:
             
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

‘The Retrieval’: profits, losses of Civil War fugitive tracking

A movie review of “The Retrieval,” a Civil War drama about a 13-year-old boy who helps bounty hunters capture fugitives.




The New York Times

Movie Review

‘The Retrieval,’ with Ashton Sanders, Keston John, Bill Oberst Jr. Written and directed by Chris Eska. 94 minutes. Rated R for some violence. SIFF Cinema at the Film Center.

The New York Times does not provide star ratings with reviews.

advertising

A tough, tender little movie, “The Retrieval” tells a story of divided souls wandering a divided land. It takes place in 1864, the year before the Civil War ended, and opens in the dead of night.

As cannons boom in the distance, a 13-year-old black boy, a seeming runaway, takes refuge in a barn guarded by a white woman with a long gun. Shortly after the boy settles in next to a few black fugitives — one silently hands him food — he slips out to alert his employers, white bounty hunters who quickly torch the barn and capture the fugitives, who fetch as much as $600 a head.

Money changes hands throughout “The Retrieval.” The boy, Will (Ashton Sanders), carries around a coin given to him by his long-gone father. With no family or home, he clings to it and to a man he calls uncle, Marcus (Keston John), a black mercenary. It’s unclear how they ended up working for the bounty hunters, led by the foreboding Burrell (Bill Oberst Jr.).

After the gang captures the fugitives, Burrell pays Marcus, who then tosses Will some coins. There’s pathos in how Will scrambles for his meager pay and also in his reluctance to feed the fugitives.

Written, directed and edited by Chris Eska, “The Retrieval” is modest in means and narrative scope. Its heft comes from the moral awakening at its center, which involves the humanization of a black adolescent who, however nominally free, is captive to a system that reduces human relationships to financial transactions.



Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►