Script: Andrew Bovell
Cast: Grigoriy Dobrygin, Homayoun Ershadi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Willem Dafoe
Setting: 2010s, Hamburg
Rated : 4 Stars
The Sept 11th attacks were formulated and planned in Hamburg, Germany. Now, in an attempt to prevent terrorist cells, a small semi-illegal German spy ring operates there. Led by Gunther they watch the city and especially its Muslim inhabitants, developing ties and “resources” among that community. Resources that will lead them to bigger fish and so on.
One night a Chechen comes ashore. Gunther’s group notice him and begin to investigate. Some think he has ties to the Chechen terrorists. Is he planning an attack in Germany? Gunther isn’t too sure and wants to keep watching. Meanwhile Isa helps a woman bring home her shopping and is taken in by her and her son. They are Muslim immigrants trying to get citizenship in Germany, and so they know a lawyer. They call her, and Annabel gets on the case.
This could have been a fascinating film. The subject matter is interesting and not the usual fare. We don’t often see films focusing on how European countries are targeting terrorists. Usually it is all Jack Bauer style anti-terror rubbish.
Unfortunately the film is far too ponderous and full of its own seriousness. It starts well. And the final few scenes are great. But at least one third of it is just plod plod plod. It tries to raise issues; you know, like what happens when the good guys have to resort to bad guy tactics and such, but it just didn’t work for me. I really liked the actor playing Issa, I thought he did a great job, but his was quite a passive character as we waited to learn more about him. All the other characters seemed almost one note. Annabel wanted to help. Gunther was the cynical, weary man with a past, trying to do good with bureaucracy and politics opposing him. His team were nothing more than his team.
These sort of films just don’t work for me. They start all cynical and disillusioned with the world and they end in exactly the same manner. What’s the point, to reveal to us that the real world is a horrible place where nothing works out? That’s not my idea of entertainment, there has to be some sort of journey for the characters for it to mean anything to me. I don’t mind a bleak outlook to a film, but if you end in exactly the same place as you start… Nah, I don’t get it.
If you just go for the acting then I think the film could work. Hoffman is superb in the role. But I need more than that.