Review: ‘Phantom Pain’

A well-made but wearyingly conventional piece of inspirational uplift.

Pop-scored montages do most of the heavy lifting in “Phantom Pain,” a well-made but wearyingly conventional piece of inspirational uplift about a cad who loses a leg in a bike accident. Predictably enough, amputee status forces him to confront his many issues — he drinks too much, he loves the ladies but can’t commit, he’s a lousy father with daddy issues of his own — which pile up so fast, one can scarcely see the character for the cliches. Teuton uber-star Til Schweiger reps the pic’s best selling point outside Germany, where it opened modestly in April.

His hair long and unkempt, charming drifter Marc (Schweiger) loves riding his bicycle — not least because it’s an easy way to flee responsibility — but everything changes when he collides with an oncoming car one night. With help from his friends and young daughter (Schweiger’s own kid, Luna), all more supportive than he deserves, Marc revives his long-dormant writing talent while voiceover reminiscences of his troubled relationship with his dad flood the already overworked soundtrack. Auds will know Marc’s a changed man when he finally gets a haircut, but by then it’s too little, too late.

Phantom Pain



A Bavaria Film Intl. presentation of a Film1 production, in co-production with Warner Bros. Film Prods. Germany, Barefoot Films, Neue Bioskop Film. (International sales: Bavaria Film Intl., Geiselgasteig, Germany.) Produced by Sebastian Zuhr, Henning Ferber, Marcus Welke. Co-producers, Til Schweiger, Tom Zickler, Dietmar Guntsche. Directed, written by Matthias Emcke.


Camera (color, widescreen), Ngo The Chau; editor, Martina Matuschewski; music, Martin Todsharow; production designer, Ralf Kufner; costume designer, Beate Scheel. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 14, 2009. Original title: Phantomschmerz. Running time: 97 MIN.


Til Schweiger, Jana Pallaske, Stipe Erceg, Luna Schweiger, Julia Brendler.

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