Apr 11, 2010

Film Review: Storm

DIR: Hans-Christian Schmid
CAST: Kerry Fox, Anamaria Marinca, Stephen Dillane

Storm has an interesting idea. Set at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, it follows a prosecutor (Fox) who finds that a three year old case against a former Bosnian general is about to collapse because a witness lied to her. She’s got a week to get the case back on track and convince a new witness (Marinca) to testify. The problem with this film is that the execution just doesn’t match the promise of the idea.

As you might expect with a distinguished cast and Hans-Christian Schmid, who drew such remarkable work from Sandra Huller in his previous film Requiem, behind the lens the performances are excellent. Fox, allowed for once to use her natural New Zealand accent, is an excellent and underrated actress, and she’s entirely believable as this lawyer with a desperate desire both to put a disturbing case to bed and to see justice done. She’s also a good physical fit for the role, at 44 she’s certainly an attractive woman, but she’s no glamour girl, she’s the right age and has the right look for us to buy her in this role in a way that, say, Penelope Cruz really doesn’t. It’s more than that though; the lines that she’s given as Hannah Maynard are largely very functional and actually rather lacking in character, but Fox manages to bring more depth to the role than was likely there on the page, only coming unstuck when the screenplay essentially throws up its hands and abandons plausibility entirely.

There’s also a fine performance from Anamaria Marica, the Romanian actress lauded for her work in Channel 4’s Sex Traffic and, more recently, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Here she manages to bring emotion to her part in three languages; Czech, German and English and bring a measure of credibility to her character’s emotional journey, despite the fact that, again, the screenplay, by virtue of its very truncated timeline, offering little in the way of help or plausibility.

The workings of the ICC and the way it takes care of witnesses are convincingly observed, and there seems to have been scrupulous research into the manner in which it conducts its business. The first twenty minutes of the film are especially convincing, and thus especially interesting, from this point of view. Sadly the screenplay begins to fall down in its second and third acts, with character motivation feeling hazy (Marinca’s character especially, who goes from ‘can’t hep, won’t help’ to ‘lets get the bastard’ in a very few scenes). The ending is what killed the film for me though, a ridiculous, laughably implausible, piece of grandstanding, followed up by a coda all of which feels like a sermon directed at the ICC, really, if that’s all that Schmid and co-writer Bernd Lange had to say I wish they’d just written a strongly worded letter to someone.

Fox and Marinca’s excellent work aside, Storm doesn’t really work, perhaps Schmid and Lange aren’t yet assured enough in English, or perhaps this clanging, declamatory tone is exactly what they were after, either way it really undermines what could have been a genuinely smart and provocative film, and it’s a terrible disappointment from a filmmaker who had previously made something as subtle, as intelligent and as absolutely real as Requiem.

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