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Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Ben Parker
prd Matthew James Wilkinson, Paul Higgins
with Charlotte Vega, Tom Felton, Harriet Walter, Barry Ward, Dan Renton Skinner, Bill Milner, Niall Murphy, Kristo Viiding, Bashka Forrest, David Alexander, Jaan Rekkor, Tambet Tuisk
release UK Aug.22 frf,
Is it streaming?
Set at the end of WWII, this mystery thriller generates a sense of secrecy at every step. It's packed with skirmishes that are nasty but not always easy to follow, while the story structure moves from one incident to the next without much overall momentum. It's sharp enough to hold the interest, but it lacks a compelling point of view, relying on intrigue rather than any human element.
In 1991 London, Anna (Walter) has a peaceful evening interrupted by a burglar (Alexander) who dredges up her past as a Soviet spy during the war. Back then (now Vega), Anna is sent on a secret mission to escort Hitler's remains to Moscow. Amid insidious scrapes along the road, her team is attacked by German soldiers determined to prove this is not the Fuhrer's body. Outside a village, they meet Polish soldier Likasz (Felton), who helps them survive a gunfight. But even though the Nazis have they've lost the war, they won't give up easily.
Director Parker shoots and cuts everything tightly, making it tricky to to work out what's happening to whom, especially in scenes set in inky darkness. This allows for creepy effects that hint at urgent peril, with visions of monsters and ghosts emerging from the mist to prey on these soldiers' deepest fears. But it can be quite exhausting for an audience that wants to understand what's happening. Still, it looks great, and offers a freshly sinister approach to a gritty war thriller.
An up-or-it cast goes for big emotional beats, mainly expressions of all-encompassing rage. Each has an authenticity that transcends the English-language dialog, anchored by the terrific Walter as narrator and Vega as the woman in the thick of it. Others are sketchier, registering only in small moments with knowing glimpses of compassion, cruelty, desperation or payback. But relationships never quite emerge. There's also no real heroism in risking or losing your life on this kind of mission, so it's the innocent bystanders who gain our sympathy.
While Parker is happy concentrating on cinematic pleasures, the body-snatching exercise at the centre adds a few haunting themes, because the war being over renders the endeavour ultimately pointless. And in framing scenes, Walter states another key idea, commenting that history is recorded by survivors, not the victors. These are things everyone who ignites a fight always forgets, thinking they'll be the exception to the rule. So even if the story is a bit muddled, the film leaves us with something to think about.
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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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