'Storm'

A potentially gripping legal thriller about what happens when Western Europe attempts to solve Central European problems ends up as dull entertainment in "Storm."

A potentially gripping legal thriller about what happens when Western Europe attempts to solve Central European problems ends up as dull entertainment in “Storm.” Europudding production, shot largely in English, wastes some fine acting talent — Kerry Fox, Stephen Dillane and, especially, Romanian actress Anamaria Marinca (“4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”) — on a script whose dialogue is by turns awkward, expository and simply unnatural, and which tries to be provocative but ends up being either back-breakingly worthy or plain silly. Expect some serious reviews in Euro territories followed by distinctly un-stormy business.

It’s 2005, and former Yugoslav National Army commander Goran Duric (Drazen Kuehn) is arrested while vacationing in the Canary Islands. Three years later, his trial for war crimes committed 15 years earlier in the Bosnian town of Kasmaj is due at the U.N. Intl. Criminal Tribunal in the Hague. Prosecutor Hannah Maynard (Fox) is told by her boss, Keith Haywood (Stephen Dillane), that it’s a piece of cake; all she has to do is prove Duric was in charge of the ethnic cleansing.

However, when Duric’s canny lawyer (Tarik Filipovic) undermines the credibility of Hannah’s key witness, Alen Hajdarevic (Kresimir Mikic), Keith tells Hannah she has to take a new approach to the case. She has one week to do so, as the tribunal is already getting itchy to close the book on Bosnia.

Hannah tracks down Alen’s sister, Mira (Marinca), who lives in Berlin with her husband (Steven Scharf) and young son, and pressures her to go on the witness stand. Meanwhile, she also starts to uncover hints of further dark deeds by Duric in a spa hotel in Vilina Kosa, near Kasmaj.

Despite threats and harassment by Serbian nationalists, Mira finally agrees to help Hannah, partly to exorcise her own memories. But behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing by EU pols undercuts Mira’s usefulness and threatens to make her collateral damage on a broader geopolitical level.

Not helped by the cloth-eared dialogue, which sounds directly translated from German, the rather tired-looking Fox doesn’t breathe much life into her conflicted role as U.N. careerist and social conscience. Most of the rest of the cast, including Dillane as her hardass boss and Sweden’s Rolf Lassgard as her EU apparatchik lover, are simply moved around the board at the scripters’ convenience.

Only Marinca, so good as the pragmatic best friend in “4 Months,” manages to rise above the studied dialogue. She carves a sympathetic character whose life is of little consequence to those in the comfy Netherlands, far from the tangled, emotional arena of former Yugoslavia.

Schmid, who created a real sense of claustrophobia in exorcism drama “Requiem,” doesn’t show the same smarts here as the movie flips back and forth between the Netherlands, Germany and Central Europe with zero accumulating tension. Widescreen, handheld lensing by Polish lenser Bogumil Godfrejow, who also shot “Requiem,” is distractingly antsy, for no apparent reason other than to try to engender a sense of immediacy.

Storm

Germany

Production

A Piffl Medien/A-Film (in Germany) release of a 23/5 Filmproduktion production, in association with Zentropa Berlin, Zentropa Entertainments, Zentropa Intl. Netherlands, IdtV Films, Film i Vast. (International sales: Trust Nordisk, Hvidovre, Denmark.) Produced by Britta Knoeller, Hans-Christian Schmid. Executive producer, Maria Koepf. Co-producers, Marie Cecilie Gade, Bettina Brokemper, Frans van Gestel, Jeroen Beker. Co-executive producers, Peter Aalbaek Jensen, Peter Garde. Directed by Hans-Christian Schmid. Screenplay, Bernd Lange, Schmid.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Bogumil Godfrejow; editor, Hansjoerg Weissbrich; music, the Notwist; art director, Christian M. Goldbeck; costume designer, Steffi Bruhn; sound (Dolby Digital), Patrick Veigel; sound designer, Hans Moller; assistant director, Scott Kirby. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 7, 2009. Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Hannah Maynard - Kerry Fox Mira Arendt - Anamaria Marinca Keith Haywood - Stephen Dillane Jonas Dahlberg - Rolf Lassgard Patrick Faerber - Alexander Fehling
With: Tarik Filipovic, Kresimir Mikic, Steven Scharf, Joel Eisenblaetter, Bent Mejding, Wine Dierickx, Reinout Bussemaker, Alexis Zegerman, Arturo Venegas, Drazen Kuehn. (English, German, Serbian dialogue)

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