— Ann Hornaday
A ferocious, unrelenting sense of urgency drives “Quo Vadis, Aida?,” Jasmila Zbanic’s propulsive thriller set amid the massacre in Srebrenica during the Bosnian War in 1995. The title character, a translator for the U.N. forces who are tasked with protecting the town as a safe zone, knows full well that her family and neighbors are in mortal danger from oncoming Serb forces; in her attempts to save her husband and teenage sons, she embarks on a desperate quest through the U.N.’s labyrinthine facility that becomes overrun with thousands of starving Bosnians. Jasna Djuricic delivers a breathtaking performance as a woman navigating ever more unspeakable atrocities, as well as a bureaucracy that is alternately indifferent or impotent. Through Zbanic’s discerning, morally unerring eye, war isn’t portrayed as a valor in battle or a crucible for courage, but a senseless and psychotic exercise in arrogance and impunity. Zbanic knows exactly where to put the camera and when to move it in this harrowing portrait, which recalls 2015’s equally masterful “Son of Saul” in its oblique but shattering representation of violence — in this case, the murder of more than 8,000 men and boys and the use of rape as a weapon — which is all the more unsettling when they’re reflected in Djuricic’s stoic but expressive face. Once the drama opens up, especially in its haunting epilogue, viewers are trusted to draw their own conclusions about what, if anything, all of it meant. This is a film that more than earns its title, which evokes both history and operatic sweep: “Quo Vadis, Aida?” may sharpen its focus to the journey of one woman, but in so doing it illuminates a period in history that should never be forgotten. Unrated. Contains profanity, smoking, wartime violence and intense images. Available at virtualavalon.org, afisilver.afi.com and themiracletheatre.com. In Serbo-Croatian, Bosnian, Dutch, Serbian and English, with subtitles. 103 minutes.
Canada’s official Oscar submission to last year’s Academy Awards, “Antigone” is a refugee drama inspired by Sophocles’s play of the same name. Newcomer Nahéma Ricci plays the title role: an Algeria-born teenager living in Montreal with her immigrant family who defies the government after one of her brothers is killed by police and the other is arrested and threatened with deportation. Variety calls the film an “intelligent, moving reworking” of the Greek tragedy, “electrified by a breakout turn” from its star.” Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms. 109 minutes.
The violent, darkly comic thriller “Concrete Plans” follows a resentful work crew renovating a mansion in Wales. When the home’s arrogant owner stops paying, the laborers snap, turning on their employer and one another. The main problem, according to the Guardian, is that “too often the film sounds like a quaint fantasy of what rich people sound like, what not-rich people sound like, and what criminals sound like.” Unrated. Available at afisilver.afi.com. 91 minutes.
The historical drama “The Good Traitor” tells the true story of Henrik Kauffmann (Ulrich Thomsen), Denmark’s ambassador to the United States, who, after the Nazi invasion of his country in 1940, refuses to accept the capitulation of his government to the Germans. Unrated. Available at afisilver.afi.com, themiracletheatre.com
and virtualavalon.org. In English and Danish with subtitles. 110 minutes.
The documentary “Lost Course” looks at the efforts of Chinese villagers to fight back against corrupt officials who had illegally sold their land. Sobering and sprawling, according to the New York Times, the film uses the local uprising to “pose broader questions about the feasibility of democratic and anticorruption reforms in China..” Unrated. Available at afisilver.afi.com. In Mandarin with subtitles. 180 minutes.
The documentary “The People vs. Agent Orange” follows two women in their 70s who are pushing for accountability regarding the deployment of the toxic defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. One is an Oregon activist and the other is a Vietnamese survivor of the war. The Los Angeles Times says “the film is a righteous but rough ride as far as activist docs go.” Unrated. Available at afisilver.afi.com. In English, French and Vietnamese with subtitles. 84 minutes.
In “Rain Beau’s End,” Hannah (Janelle Snow) and Jules (Amanda Powell) are a lesbian couple who discover through genetic testing that the 4-year-old boy they have adopted could be prone to aggressive behavior. Sean Young appears as Hannah’s law partner and Ed Asner is her homophobic father. Unrated. Available on lesflicks.com. 117 minutes.
Victoria Justice (“Victorious”) and Matthew Daddario (“Shadowhunters”) play a married couple, each of whom is tempted to stray from their vows by a seductive outsider in the romantic thriller “Trust.” Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms. 94 minutes.
The documentary “Underplayed” examines the lack of gender equity in the field of electronic dance music. Variety calls the film (which was made by an all-woman crew) “beautifully shot and creatively edited.” Unrated. Available on Amazon Prime. 87 minutes.