Confusion, thy name is “ECCO.”
This handsome-looking Seattle-set thriller from Washington-born writer-director (and University of Washington alumnus) Ben Medina is a puzzlement from start until virtually its finish.
A tortured (literally in some instances; waterboarding anyone?) fellow played by Lathrop Walker (also a UW alum) is haunted by shadowy individuals who are threatening and killing people close to him for reasons he can barely comprehend.
He’s a man of mystery to his loved ones and to himself. At the picture’s opening he appears to be some kind of assassin, shooting and killing everyone aboard a private jet and then parachuting to safety from the doomed plane.
Cut to … a gloom-shrouded fishing vessel where a group of rough-looking crewmen are playing cards. A bearded dour guy wins the pot. What? The connection between the two scenes is?
Revealed very, very gradually.
Medina skips back and forth between what at first seem like two different stories. One involves the shooter and a blond beauty (Helena Grace Donald) who, intrigued by his brooding demeanor, photographs him on a subway and quickly becomes his lover. Meanwhile the fishing boat crewman is sharing tender though troubled moments with his pregnant wife (Tabitha Bastien).
A recurring question asked by both women is “Who are you?”
Good question. And one that he’s extremely reluctant to answer. Turns out he’s not sure himself.
Encounters with a white-bearded older man who claims to be his father and a malevolent disabled man with a cane (the latter the leader of the waterboarders) show up to cryptically comment on his situation and offer clues as to his true identity.
Confusion is fed by the picture’s abrupt shifts from past to present, as flashbacks and flash-forwards rebound off one another to jumble the narrative thread.
In this, his feature debut, Medina shot “ECCO” on locations throughout Washington, from Seattle to Port Townsend to the Skagit Valley. But he filmed them in such a way that few obvious landmarks are shown. (Seattle’s Fishermen’s Fisherman’s Terminal is a rare exception.) It therefore appears unanchored to any specific locale, and that adds to the aura of mystery.
Very, very late in “ECCO’s” two-plus hour running time, answers come.
It’s a long wait for clarity. From the viewer, much patience is required.
★★ “ECCO,” with Lathrop Walker, Helena Grace Donald and Tabitha Bastien. Written and directed by Ben Medina. 123 minutes. Rated R for violence including bloody images, language, and some sexuality/nudity. Opens Friday, Aug. 9. Multiple theaters.