Review: ‘5 Years’

Acknowledging the horrors at Guantanamo Bay is easy, but showing them onscreen without resorting to sensationalism proves beyond the capabilities of Stefan Schaller's "5 Years."

Acknowledging the horrors at Guantanamo Bay is easy, but showing them onscreen without resorting to sensationalism proves beyond the capabilities of Stefan Schaller’s “5 Years.” Based on the true story of Turkish-German Murat Kurnaz, imprisoned for half a decade in Guantanamo, the pic is awash in obvious setups that, combined with Schaller’s difficulty in creating three-dimensional characters, results in a tedious slog of well-meaning cliches. Euro smallscreen play is likely, which is where it belongs.

Pic begins with such a relentless level of aggression, with U.S. soldiers screaming obscenities and beating prisoners, that there’s nowhere to go. Following torture, Kurnaz (Sascha Alexander Gersak) is interrogated by crisp U.S. officer Gail Holford (Ben Miles), via the usual trajectory of winning the prisoner’s trust followed by psychological blackmail. Flashbacks fill in some of Kurnaz’s background in Bremen (disaffected youth recruited by nefarious Islamists), though why he was in Pakistan and Afghanistan is never clear. The overall impression is of a naive guy whose stubbornness gets him through, but that makes his ordeal disturbing rather than involving. Incongruously, prisoners communicate among themselves in English. Tech creds are standard.

5 Years

Germany

Production

A Teamworx TV & Film, Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, HR, Arte, SWR, BR, SR & Radio Bremen, Studio Babelsberg, Cine Plus production. (International sales: Global Screen, Munich.) Produced by Fabian Maubach, Joseph M'Barek. Coproducers, Christoph Fisser, Charlie Woebcken, Henning Molfenter, Sonja B. Zimmer, Joerg Schulze, Frank Evers, Henning Heubronner. Executive producer, Jochen Laube. Directed, written by Stefan Schaller.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Armin Franzen; editor, Simon Blasi; music, Enik; production designer, Julian R. Wagner; art director, Sarah Horton; costume designer, Diana Dean; sound (Dolby Digital), Christoph Schilling; casting, Simone Baer. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (Bright Future), Jan. 25, 2013. (Also in Berlin Film Festival -- market.) Running time: 96 MIN.

With

Sascha Alexander Gersak, Ben Miles, Trystan Puetter, John Keogh. (English, German dialogue)

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