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Review: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Driving through the wasteland
By PETER KEOUGH  |  May 8, 2012
3.5 3.5 Stars

In Nuri Bilge Ceylan's minimalist "Eastern," the Leone-esque title seems ironic, as a team of bumbling investigators spend hours driving through the Anatolian wasteland searching for the grave of a murder victim. They discuss trivia, bicker, and when one cop talks about his gun and the desperados he must deal with, it seems like he's watched too much TV. And these guys aren't exactly CSI: Miami; they forget to bring body bags and their exhumation gear consists of two guys with shovels ("No picks?" the exasperated chief complains). A comic high point occurs when the crew ponders the logistics of stuffing a too-big body into a too-small trunk. But as the caravan of three cars snakes through the steppes — far away, winding along endless roads, vulnerable and tiny in the landscape — it becomes clear that the search is internal, through the guilty, grieving memories of the investigators, ending with an excavation of a grislier kind.

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