Making an appreciable splash in his feature helming debut, scripter/thesper Mennan Yapo displays a confident, cool hand in the absorbing crime thriller “Soundless.” Neither a cold analytical policer nor another funny hit man tale, Yapo’s pic enters the mind of a dispassionate assassin whose chance encounter with a fragile woman sends shock waves of humanity coursing through his normally detached life. With an engrossing story that balances equal parts tension with genuine psychological depth, “Soundless” should make a pleasant din in offshore B.O.s, with further noise from ancillary.
A police stakeout goes awry when hired sniper Viktor (Joachim Krol) silently shoots a dirty cop, and evading cameras and bugs glides into an apartment and extracts incriminating docu-ments from behind the bed where Nina (Nadja Uhl) lays sleeping.
Viktor works for Martin Hinrich (Peter Fitz), a middleman between Viktor and some shadowy contractors. Although Hinrich was surprised that Viktor didn’t kill Nina, the lonely hit man found himself fascinated by the pale blonde woman.
Hired to off a Russian politician, Viktor devotes equal time to following Nina, rescuing her from a suicide attempt.
Intense, driven Inspector Lang (Christian Berkel) is assigned to track down the killer. An expert in psychological profiling, Lang searches for connections with similar murders. He reaches back nearly 40 years to an unsolved case involving Felix Mohr, a 9-year-old boy who revenged his parents’ murders and subsequently disappeared. Lang manages to connect Felix to Hinrich, a friend of Felix’s father, and then through “C.S.I.”-type DNA sampling to Viktor himself.
Although the obvious police elements keep interest levels high, the real draw of “Soundless” is the psychological depth of the characters Viktor and Nina created by Yapo and scripter Lars-Olav Beier. Both characters keep their emotions in a freezer, but their quick recognition of a soulmate creates dangerous problems for Viktor, whose line of work is based on the ability to function with the utmost detachment.
Playing against type, Krol (a regular with Tom Tykwer, here acting as producer) is superb as the shut-down assassin with a very painful past, whose workmanlike determination is shaken by his encounter with Nina. Rising talent Uhl matches Krol’s style beautifully, and fleshes out the love-starved woman without the need for full background history.
Taking stylistic cues from capers such as “Mission: Impossible” and “Ocean’s Eleven,” Yapo confidently handles the thriller elements while earning high scores for his ability to handle psychological motivations as well. With his cool, muted colors, big closeups and frequently whispered dialogue, he creates a world of ice-cold resolve that surprises itself by the discovery of a human connection. Tech credits feel big budget and are top notch across the board.