A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at the documentary “Midnight Return,” “The Insult,” Lebanon’s first-ever Academy Award nomination for best foreign-language film and “In the Fade” starring Diane Kruger.
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s big releases, the documentary “Midnight Return,” “The Insult,” Lebanon’s first-ever Academy Award nomination for best foreign-language film and “In the Fade” starring Diane Kruger.
To paraphrase James Baldwin, “The most dangerous creation of any society is the woman who has nothing to lose.” “In the Fade” (“Aus dem Nichts”), the new thriller from German director Fatih Akin, brings this truism to life.
When we first meet Katja (Diane Kruger in her first German language film) she has a normal life. Living in Germany, married to Turkish immigrant accountant Nuri (Numan Acar), she has a young son named Rocco and a large extended family. Her well ordered life is disrupted, forever changed, when Nuri and Rocco are killed in a Neo-Nazi nail bomb attack. Her life in shards she attempts suicide, endures a drawn out court trial—“Imagine if they had gotten me and Rocco and Nuri had lived. He wouldn’t have stood for all this chit chat,” she says of the court case.—and finally, a showdown between her and the people responsible for tearing her life apart.
“In the Fade’s” story of terrorism and violence against immigrants is a timely one. Footage like the bombed out storefront where Nuri did business have become commonplace on the nightly news. What is less commonplace, on the news anyway, is the revenge aspect. Her need for vengeance, no matter the cost, drives the final third of the film.
Broken into three distinct segments, “The Family,” “Justice” and “The Sea,” the film almost feels like three separate shorts bound together by one character. Kruger is the glue that makes the movie as compelling as it is. A churning vessel of rage, hurt and despair, she is a very human presence at the centre of a bleak story.
“In the Fade” closes with a title card detailing the violence against immigrants in Germany each year. It is a powerful statement made in a movie that drives the point home by honing the horror of widespread violence down to one, very personal story.
Imagine if “Donnie Brasco” and “Narcos” had a baby. Now imagine that the baby grew up to be the dull kid who thought he was smarter than everyone else. That baby is “The Infiltrator,” a new drug movie starring Bryan Cranston.
Set in 1985 South Florida, the War on Drugs is in full swing. Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar is flooding the streets with $400 million of cocaine per week while remaining out of reach to law enforcement. Enter Robert Mazur (Cranston), an accountant-turned-federal-undercover-drug-agent. He’s wounded and eligible for retirement with a full pension, but takes in one last job that turns out to be the biggest and most dangerous of his career. Working with fellow narcs Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger) and Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), he goes deep as Bob Musella, money launderer to the cartels. Dodging bullets and unwanted sexual advances, Musella gains the trust of the Medellín Cartel but must balance his friendship with drug lord Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt) with the responsibilities of his job.
Part of all of us wants Bryan Cranston back in the drug trade. Years of “Breaking Bad” primed us for his brand of Heisenbergian ruthlessness and in the wake of the show’s conclusion, left us wanting more. Too bad that his return to the underworld is such a milquetoast affair. What could have been an engaging look into the inner workings of a business so huge they had to spend a thousand bucks a week on rubber bands to hold stacks of bills together, is instead a mishmash of clichés, tough-talk and 80s-style excess. Not content to let the story do the talking director Brad Furman errs on the side of the obvious throughout. For instance, instead of letting the implied threat of Cartel violence stand on its own, characters remind us that if things go wrong there will be grave consequences for everyone involved.
Better is the portrayal of Mazur’s complicated relationship with Alcaino and his wife. The agent and Escobar’s suave-but-deadly US representative become friends of a sort and when the sting goes down there are poignant moments that add some real drama to a film that desperately needs them.
“The Infiltrator” is held together by Cranston whose fine work is the most compelling thing in the movie. Leguizamo has the more interesting character in the street wise Abreu but isn’t given enough to do. Ditto Amy Smart as Mazur’s commanding officer. She does what she can but the character still seems to have walked straight of Central Casting Handbook and on to the screen.
Diane Kruger almost didn’t win the part of German movie-star-turned- Mata-Hari Bridget von Hammersmark in Inglourious Basterds because Quentin Tarantino’s didn’t think she was German enough. He was familiar with her from National Treasure, Wicker Park and Troy, but assumed she was American and would have trouble with the German dialogue and accent.
“It’s a testament to my dialect coaches throughout the years,” says the actress, born Diane Heidkrüger thirty-four years ago in Algermissen, Germany. “They eventually convinced him I was actually German,” she says, but unfortunately Tarantino wanted Natasha Kinski for the role.
When Kinski backed out Kruger saw her chance. “I can be really obnoxious when I want something badly,” she says. For the audition she flew herself to Berlin and learned thirty pages of dialogue in German and in English. “I knew if I got my chance he couldn’t hire anyone else.”
The Berlin set of Inglourious Basterds was a long way from Algermissen. “I come from the middle of nowhere,” she says. “No one in my family knows anyone in the business.”
Her first taste of “the business” was at the Royal Ballet in London before an injury sidelined her dancing career. Returning to Germany she pursued modeling and became a top model. After starring in campaigns for Chanel and Giorgio Armani it was time for a change.
“You can only care so much about free clothes and posing. I wanted to be intellectually engaged.
At the suggestion of The Fifth Element filmmaker Luc Besson she left the runway to try acting. Working internationally—she’s fluent in three languages—she made an impression in a series of French films like Mon idole before Wolfgang Petersen cast her as Helen of Troy opposite Brad Pitt in the big budget epic Troy.
Admitting to being “inexperienced and completely overwhelmed” while making the movie, it nonetheless put her “on the map” in Hollywood. Soon she was starring opposite Nicolas Cage in National Treasure and its sequel while still finding time to make challenging films like Frankie and the Oscar nominated Joyeux Noël.
Inglourious Basterds is another jewel in her crown, but don’t expect her to return to that kind of role again anytime soon.
“Every movie has to be a different challenge,” she says. “I don’t want to play the same part that I’ve played in a different movie. I have to be scared of it to want to do it.”