Director: Walter Strafford
Stars: Brian Geraghty, Alexia Rasmussen, Abigail Spencer, Chris Marquette, Bruce Altman, Henny Russell, Jim Gaffigan, John Cullum, Diego Klattenhoff
Running time: 80 minutes
On paper, Kilimanjaro's plot description hints at an emotionally cathartic, everyman adventure.
Brian Gergaghty (The Hurt Locker) plays Doug, a mild-mannered guy who lives in Brooklyn, holds down an uneventful job at a publishing house, and generally lacks any visible excitement about where his life is at any given moment. His girlfriend (Alexia Rasmussen), aware of Doug's disenchantment, breaks up with him right as his grandfather winds up in the hospital. Ready to finally do something that he can look back upon with pride, Doug convinces his sarcastic best friend (Chris Marquette) to plan a trip to Africa so they can climb the massive volcanic mountain Kilimanjaro.
Doesn't sound half-bad, right? Well, that's not really what writer-director Walter Strafford is selling here. What the milquetoast Kilimanjaro is, in fact, matches Doug in terms of blandness, lack of direction, and a disregard for seeing its potential through. Building to the ultimate anticlimax, it's the indie film world's answer to the first season of AMC's The Killing.
Gergahty—so good in Kathryn Bigelow's aforementioned 2008 Oscar winner, as well as in last year's Flight—plays the dull, non-emotive Doug almost too well. Throughout Kilimanjaro, he sports the same nearly catatonic facial reaction to every bad turn, draining the film's overall mood as Doug contends with financial woes, family tragedy, and an increasingly complicated relationship status. Where's the tension supposed to come from if the main character never actually seems all that tense?
Perhaps he's really clairvoyant and, without the audience knowing it, he's watching Kilimanjaro's resolution with the same indifference as anyone who's expecting any major changes to Doug's arc. As far as scaling mountains goes, this one's more like an ant hill.