The Eagle Huntress TBC
Girls don't hunt eagles. Girls stay at home and cook for the men who hunt eagles. That's what thirteen-year-old Mongolian girl Aisholpan Nurgaiv has been told by the elders of her tribe since she was born… but she's not letting something like tradition stop her. Backed by her supportive dad – "boys and girls are equal", he says – Aisholpan goes about training to be an eagle hunter… and it's not all about standing in a clearing making funny noises.
Following Aisholpan and her quest to train an eagle is one of the most engaging and inspiring films one can watch this year, a real feminist statement in an unlikeliest of places. And it's no joke training an eagle: guided by her father, who doesn’t treat her any different than if she was his son, the young girl has to scale a cliff face and take an eaglet before the mother returns. After that it's the painstakingly process of training an eagle to respond to her voice before entering into the Eagle Hunter competition – the first girl to ever do so. And it doesn't stop there: to become a true hunter one must make one’s way into the cold Altai Mountains and have their eagle successfully bring down a snow fox.
Making his debut, Oto Bell allows the gorgeous cinematography to be a backdrop to his uplifting story: Simon Niblett's swoops about the tundra, up mountainsides and across snow-covered plains. It's gorgeous to look at. But where the visuals and the story are cinematic, the needless voiceover drags everything back to TV. Although able to tell his story visually, Bell reverts to Daisy Ridley's (The Force Awakens) narration that unnecessarily recaps what we've seen or what’s about to happen. There's a tendency too to manipulate scenes to exaggerate reactions and draw out tension – think X Factor levels of dramatic pauses.
But with her goofy grin and winning determination, it's so easy to get on board with Aisholpan and her quest (although the sorry state of affairs for the poor eaglet isn't addressed at all), making The Eagle Huntress a delight.
Review by Gavin Burke | 16:45 | Tuesday 20th December 2016 | Movie Review