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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Fast Runner (2002)

"Evil came to us like death."
- Panikpak (Madeline Ivalu)

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: February 23, 2003

Stars: Natar Ungalaaq, Sylvia Ivalu, Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq
Other Stars: Lucy Tulugarjuk, Pauloosie Qulitalik, Madeline Ivalu, Eugene Ipkarnak
Director: Zacharias Kunuk

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality/nudity and violence
Run Time: 02h:41m:10s
Release Date: February 11, 2003
UPC: 043396002357
Genre: foreign


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-A-B+ D+

DVD Review

Fleeing for his life, Atanarjuat (Natar Ungalaaq) sprints across the icy landscape and sees no relief in sight. The three pursuers draw closer, and his naked body is devastated by the frigid temperatures. This remarkable moment represents one of the most intense action sequences of the past year. Without the aid of monstrous special effects, the tenacious atmosphere springs from the screen and generates a tense viewing experience. Does Atanarjuat survive this moment? The answer is only one element of The Fast Runner—an intriguing picture generated directly from the Arctic lands.

The story begins years earlier with the arrival of an evil curse into the Inuit tribe. A strange, giggling man brings the curse into young Sauri (Eric Nutarariaq), who becomes the tribe's chief. Moving forward in time, we are introduced to two brothers, Amaqjuaq (Pakkak Innushuk) and Atanarjuat, who stand opposed to the brutish Oki (Peter-Henry Amatsiaq) and his buddies. The conflict reaches its peak when Atanarjuat falls in love with Atuat (Sylvia Ivalu), a woman promised to Oki, Sauri's son. In accordance with ancient traditions, they must square off in a nasty battle of blows to settle their conflict. After Atanarjuat prevails in the contest, everything appears calm, but the evil remains, and trouble lurks on the horizon.

Far from a simple "good vs. evil" story, this film gives us an intimate portrayal of a lifestyle rarely viewed on the screen. The early portions include lingering depictions of the daily routines of the Inuit people. While they do little to further the plot, these vignettes help to provide a larger image of the characters involved. I found the beginning scenes difficult to follow and very slow, but everything comes together eventually. Director Zacharias Kunuk walks a fine line here and could lose the audience if the tale doesn't pick up soon. However, the material stays fresh and different enough to overcome these obstacles. They may not move swiftly, but the authenticity offered is a rare inclusion in the world of modern cinema.

The Fast Runner is the first movie shot in Inuktitut, the Inuit language, which immediately makes it a landmark production. It also utilizes a 90-percent Inuit crew and stems from a legend much older than anyone living today. Shot entirely on digital video, this picture feels very realistic while retaining an interesting love story. Atanarjuat's struggles occur in a stunning atmosphere of endless, barren ice. It is difficult to imagine anyone surviving amid the tough landscape, but it becomes believable due to the tale's convincing nature. Everyone looks like they belong in the Arctic Circle and really do live in sparse igloos. The shots of hunting and riding the dog sleds also work effectively and bring us closer to the action. The entire cast and crew deserve tremendous credit for bringing this compelling epic to the screen.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The Fast Runner was shot entirely in digital video, which could lead to less sharpness within the images. However, the medium works especially well due to the intense light reflecting off the white ground; it keeps the bright colors from overwhelming the camera and makes everything more muted. A decent amount of grain does appear during the darker interior shots, but they occupy only a small portion of the film. While not a premier transfer, this picture works effectively and presents the story in a clear manner.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Inuktitutno


Audio Transfer Review: This release offers a decent 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer that closely draws us into the lives of the Inuit people. We notice even the smallest sound effects and realize the vast landscape that surrounds their dwellings. The score moves nicely from the main speakers, especially during the more tense moments in the second half. The complexity is adequate, although not exceptional, and provides a worthwhile experience.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Lagaan, Limbo, Lawrence of Arabia
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 01h:24m:48s

Extras Review: The Fast Runner's lone extra features are preview trailers for Limbo, Lawrence of Arabia, and Lagaan. A behind-the-scenes documentary would have been a great inclusion, but its omission is not a major surprise.

Extras Grade: D+

 

Final Comments

The closing credits of The Fast Runner included shots of the cameras filming several important moments. It actually surprised me to see that modern technology was used to create this picture. Everything feels so authentic that it makes you forget that it is not a documentary. We also quickly view an actor walking in the snow wearing jeans and a leather jacket. The actors sell the story so well that it becomes difficult to observe them in a different light. At this moment, I realized the true success of this film, which blurs the line between reality and fiction.

 


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