Tag Archives: Emma Thompson

ALONE IN BERLIN

“…director Vincent Perez – resisting the temptation to pad things out with dubious filler or the concoction of unnecessarily distracting back stories…”

Wayward Wolf.

The death of their only son in combat has driven a German couple to risk their own lives in defiance of the Führer himself.

Provoked by a combination of deep-set grief and simmering resentment, Otto Quangel (Brendan Gleeson), is determined to make a stand against what he perceives to be an unjust, brutal Nazi regime. His wife, Anna (Emma Thompson), refuses to allow Otto to do such a thing alone, and by association, therefore becomes the accomplice to his plans.

Painstakingly Otto begins the laborious task of disguising his handwriting in order to create almost 290 cards, each of which is emblazoned with a strong anti-authoritarian message of defiance, something he refers to as “Freie Presse” (free press). Each of these he then deposits in strategic public locations around the city of Berlin, hopeful that his anarchic messages will incite some form of radical response from a down-trodden German public.

No matter their impact on the psyche of the German people, it transpires that all but eighteen of these cards will ultimately be turned in to the authorities by a public too frightened not to do so.

Predictably, Otto and Anna’s actions soon prompt something of a manhunt in the City.

Brendan Gleeson and particularly Emma Thompson put in fine performances as a couple riddled with sorrow and driven to the point where they no longer have anything to lose, but it is arguably Daniel Brühl’s performance as the rather weasel-ish police detective, Escherich, that steals the limelight here. His persual of “the threat” posed by Otto and Anna becomes something of an obsession. Frequently out-thought or wrong-footed in his endeavours, he is willing to betray anyone, and do literally anything to solve a case which threatens to get away from him; particularly once the SS get involved, ramping up the pressure to close the net on the elusive pair of renegades.

Although nicely shot and well-paced, Alone in Berlin is a fairly straight forward premise, and judged on such criteria, there’s perhaps not enough to really make it stand out from an historically long and illustrious back catalogue of Second World War-themed film-making. That said, Alexandre Desplat’s soundtrack is memorable and worthy of mention. Suitably evocative, it successfully conjures up a bleak mood of despair with its refreshingly traditional use of  both recurring themes and motifs, embellishing the film significantly and substantially.

On balance, Alone in Berlin delivers well. Both engaging and suspenseful, one can put this down to a number of factors, but primarily owing to director Vincent Perez resisting the temptation to pad things out with dubious filler or the concoction of unnecessarily distracting back stories, allowing instead a refreshingly concise and to-the-point retelling of Otto and Anna’s fraught, daring and ultimately fool-hardy act of resistance against a wicked ideology.

Well worth a watch.

 

 

 

FILM REVIEW: A Walk In The Woods

Whatever happened to Nick Nolte?

The words of a Johnny-come-lately film reviewer if ever there were some.

Bill Bryson, as far as I can tell from my own limited exposure to his books, writes fun, light-hearted content, focusing on the amusing quirks and idiosyncrasies of people and the lands in which they live.
It’s this sense of light-hearted fun that would appear to have been quite successfully harnessed by Director Ken Kwapis, in the big screen adaptation of Bryson’s, A Walk In The Woods.
Bill Bryson (played with a certain air of aloofness by Robert Redford), has reached a point in his life where he senses there’s something missing, and as he seems to be constantly and effortlessly sliding into the role of social leper, decides to stop the ride, get off and do something a little less human contact-oriented instead.
The Appalachian Trail stretches for almost 2,000 miles and statistics suggest that less than 10% of those that attempt to walk it, ever complete it; just the ticket for a man of dubious fitness, in the latter part of middle age and naturally a prospect that deters any of Bryson’s circle of friends from accompanying him on the journey – bar one…
Enter Nick Nolte…
Nolte plays Stephen Katz, an ex-alcoholic, grizzly bear-like mess of a man and an ex ‘friend’ of Bryson’s. He’s been off the radar for some time and although not specifically invited, he’s somehow heard about the trek and insists upon tagging along.
There are no other takers, so Bryson, against his better judgement, agrees to his offer, much to the disapproval of his wife Catherine, (played by Emma Thompson).
With neither man in any fit shape to trek 20 miles, let alone 2,000 miles of unforgiving terrain, you can guess where this is all heading and off they set with much japery and hilarity all set to ensue.
It’s all quite jolly, if a little too often resorting to the predictable. I’d wager that there’s certainly at least some extra content that’s been added for dramatic effect into what is, after all, not exactly edge-of -the -seat cinema.
The true thrust of the film lies though in Bryson and Katz’s frequently comical interactions, both with one another and with the world at large on a journey that gradually leads them to the realisation and acceptance of who they are and what ultimately is important to them.
Does it all stay faithful to the book? This I couldn’t say having not read it, but as an occasionally thought-provoking bit of fun that raises some chuckles and more or less sustains the interest throughout, A Walk In The Woods just about hits the mark.