Andrey Zvyagintsev's Leviathan is a film hunting big game. His fourth feature presents modern Russia as a country rotten to its core – corrupt, hypocritical and godless – and uses the story of one man fighting the establishment to highlight the human cost of such a system. Aleksey Serebryakov is the humble mechanic trying to stop his family's land from falling into the hands of the crooked mayor (Roman Madyanov), and while we suspect this won't end well – the imposing use of a Philip Glass piece introduces an instant note of foreboding – the full tragedy of Leviathan doesn't hit us until it has swallowed its characters whole.
The film possesses this capacity to catch us by surprise because Zvyagintsev keeps wrong-footing the audience with his storytelling choices, which shift according to his characters' often impulsive decisions. It's little wonder Leviathan's screenplay earned Zvyagintsev a prize in Cannes, but his direction matches it every step of the way, creating arresting images and establishing an unsettling mood that's hard to shake. [Philip Concannon]