dir Hans-Christian Schmid
scr Bernd Lange, Hans-Christian Schmid
prd Britta Knöller, Hans-Christian Schmid
with Kerry Fox, Anamaria Marinca, Stephen Dillane, Rolf Lassgård, Alexander Fehling, Tarik Filipovic, Kresimir Mikic, Steven Scharf, Joel Eisenblätter, Alexis Zegerman, Jesper Christensen, Reinout Bussemaker
release Ger 10.Sep.09
09/Germany 1h40
Telling the truth: Marinca and Fox

fox dillane
berlin film fest
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Storm An intriguing legal thriller, this tense Euro-drama takes a female perspective as it examines a horrific situation. It's a bit talky and office-bound, but is full of relevance as it looks at the thorny issue of justice in a politically charged situation.

Hannah (Fox) is a prosecutor in the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague, trying a Serbian for war crimes. But when her star witness (Mikic) lies to her, she's forced to rethink the case and turns to the witness' sister Mira (Marinca), who's actually the one with first-hand knowledge of the terrible events. The problem is that, even with solid testimony, the political situation in Europe is making it hard for Hannah to push for real justice. Not only are lives in danger, but it doesn't look like things are getting any better.

There's a real sense of outrage in this film, which provocatively takes on the global political system in which maintaining equilibrium and developing a career are both more important than the truth. Virtually everyone in this story, from lowly civil servants to high-powered judges and elected officials has personal judgement clouded by outside factors. And the first casualty is impartiality, not only allowing someone to get away with a brutal crime but refusing to protect the most vulnerable people.

Yes, this is strong stuff, so it helps that the film is told through Hannah's focussed perspective. This gives a human face to the events and the wider issues and forces us to grapple with the situation along with her. Fox plays the role with spiky conviction and welling emotional undercurrents. The death threats and conspiracies she encounters take on a deeply personal tone, and her interaction with Marinca is sharply involving.

Essentially the film is an overheated legal procedural, as Hannah navigates a torturous route to truthfulness, even if it means bending a few rules while everyone around her is breaking them. It's an odd approach for a filmmaker to take, as it becomes more of a melodrama than a thriller. And the film's criticism of the European Union and its legal system is extremely harsh. Yet since it's not without a glimmer of hope, it feels like a passionate call to action before it's too late.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 7.Feb.09 bff

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall