Asphalt City

Asphalt City
Original title:Asphalt City
Director:Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire
Running time:120 minutes
Release date:29 march 2024
Ollie Cross, jeune ambulancier de New York, fait équipe avec Gene Rutkovsky, un urgentiste expérimenté. Confronté à la violente réalité de leurs quotidiens, il découvre les risques d'un métier qui chaque jour ébranle ses certitudes et ne lui laisse aucun répit.

Mulder's Review

Asphalt City is a visceral journey through the nocturnal veins of Brooklyn, guided by the siren song of paramedics Tye Sheridan (Ollie Cross) and Sean Penn (Gene Rutkovsky). Originally premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival, this film peels back the layers of heroism to reveal a raw, unfiltered look at the burden borne by those who commit themselves to saving lives in the midst of chaos.

Brooklyn serves not only as a backdrop, but also as a character in its own right - a sprawling canvas painted with strokes of despair, hope, violence and redemption. The neighborhood streets, alive with the echoes of sirens and whispers of the unseen, create a palpable tension that serves as the film's heartbeat. Director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire employs a kinetic visual style that captures the essence of Brooklyn's grandeur and harshness, using the chiaroscuro of city lights and shadowy alleyways to create scenes that linger long after the screen has faded.

The emotional epicenter of the film is Ollie Cross and Gene Rutkovsky, two paramedics on opposing paths. Cross, played by the excellent Tye Sheridan, is the portrait of an idealistic young man, his medical school aspirations a beacon guiding him through the night. Yet as the reality of the brutality of his work sinks in, Sheridan masterfully conveys Cross's innocence, his performance a crescendo of vulnerability and resilience.

Sean Penn's Gene Rutkovsky, on the other hand, is a study in time-worn stoicism. A man shaped by the tragedies he has witnessed, Gene Rutkovsky's gruff exterior hides a well of compassion and weariness. Sean Penn, with his characteristic intensity, imbues the character with a gravity that speaks volumes in silence. The dynamic between the two is the linchpin of the film, a delicate balance between mentorship, friendship and shared adversity.

Asphalt City is not a linear narrative, but a mosaic of encounters - each emergency call is a vignette that, when pieced together, reveals the mosaic of the human condition. From the adrenaline rush to save a gunshot wound to the heartbreaking attempt to deliver a baby in the most dire of circumstances, the film oscillates between hope and despair. Sauvaire's direction ensures that these stories don't just shock, but resonate, each serving to explore themes of life, death and the gray areas in between.

What sets Asphalt City apart is its refusal to sanitize or dramatize the reality of paramedic work. The film's authenticity is both its sword and shield, eschewing clichés and challenging audiences to confront the harsh truths of life on the frontline of emergency care. The cinematography, characterized by raw, unstable framing, reflects the unpredictability of the work, while the sparing, percussive use of music amplifies the gravity of each moment.

Asphalt City is more than just a film; it's a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Thanks to outstanding performances by Tye Sheridan and Sean Penn, it weaves a tale that is both a tribute and a wake-up call, a reminder of the silent battles waged in the name of preservation and the toll they take. Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire's masterful direction ensures that Asphalt City is not just watched, but experienced, leaving an indelible mark on the fabric of cinema. This film, with its blend of raw emotion, stark realism and unwavering humanity, is a profound exploration of what it means to save lives and, perhaps, to lose oneself in the process.

Asphalt City
Directed by Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire
Written by Ryan King, Ben Mac Brown
Based on Asphalt City by Shannon Burke
Produced by Warren Goz; Eric Gold, Christopher Kopp, Lucan Toh, Sean Penn, John Ira Palmer, John Wildermuth, Tye Sheridan, Tina Wang
Starring Sean Penn, Tye Sheridan, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Raquel Nave, Kali Reis, Michael Pitt, Katherine Waterston, Mike Tyson
Cinematography : David Ungaro
Edited by Saar Klein; Katherine McQuerrey
Music by Nicolas Becker, Quentin Sirjacq
Production companies: Sculptor Media, FilmNation Entertainment, Projected Picture Works, AZA Films, Two & Two Pictures, Dogwood Pictures
Distributed by Vertical Entertainment (United States), Metropolitan Films (France)
Release dates : May 18, 2023 (Cannes), March 29, 2024 (United States), April 3, 2024 (France)
Running time : 120 minutes

Seen on March 19, 2024 at UGC Ciné-cité Les Halles, room 13

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