×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘A Thousand Times Goodnight’

Juliette Binoche plays a photojournalist caught in a war zone in this gripping, emotionally resonant drama from director Erik Poppe.

With:

Juliette Binoche, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lauryn Canny, Adrianna Cramer Curtis, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Larry Muller Jr., Mads Ousdal. (English dialogue)

A Norwegian-made, English-language film set in Ireland, Kenya and Afghanistan, and starring French luminary Juliette Binoche, would seem to wear its internationalism on its sleeve. Yet globe-trotting, at least to war zones, forms the central conflict in “A Thousand Times Goodnight,” Erik Poppe’s gripping tale of a dedicated photojournalist torn between passionate involvement with her work and commitment to her worried family. Deftly sidestepping both melodrama and family-values messaging, Poppe imbues the film with enormous emotional resonance, brilliantly grounded by his leading lady. The absence of subtitles and the presence of Binoche should open global arthouse doors for this Montreal fest grand prizewinner.

Curiously, the film opens much like the recent Jennifer Jason Leigh starrer “The Moment,” about a female shutterbug narrowly escaping death in a terrorist explosion. But Poppe’s visceral film draws the viewer more deeply into its heroine’s obsession: Photographer Rebecca (Binoche) is at once horrified and fascinated by the rituals surrounding an all-female suicide-bomber group, the camera alternating between seer and seen, each an integral part of the other, as the chosen femme bomber is cleansed, wrapped in explosives and tearfully hugged. Rebecca even insists on accompanying the martyr-to-be into Kabul, where her inability to stop snapping pictures causes everything to detonate prematurely.

Poppe, himself a photojournalist in the ’80s, lends Rebecca a serene ability to balance all-consuming work with affectionate downtime with her family by the sea. But to her marine-biologist husband, Marcus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Rebecca’s chosen profession serves her addiction to the adrenaline rush of danger, while to her teenage daughter, Steph (Lauryn Canny), it represents inexplicable abandonment. Rebecca’s latest near-fatality proves the final straw; faced with a war-or-family ultimatum, she chooses the latter.

Ironically, it is Steph’s growing appreciation for her mother’s photographs, coinciding with a school-fostered humanitarian interest in African conflicts, that encourages Rebecca, with hubby’s blessing, to accept a “safe” assignment to a Kenyan refugee camp with Steph. When violence unexpectedly erupts, Rebecca sends her daughter to safety but cannot personally tear herself away.

In the ensuing melee, Rebecca ducks into a tent, sporadically popping up to take more photos, apparently oblivious to the danger as armed marauders methodically murder people in surrounding tents.  The fierce, angry desire, articulated earlier to her daughter, that drives her to force others to see what she sees, to care about what they can no longer avoid confronting, is here made physically manifest as Rebecca’s finger on the camera button acts in rhythmic response to the bursts of gunfire.

The film distinguishes itself from Hollywood-made photojournalist actioners like “Under Fire,” in which the movie pivots around the hero questioning his neutrality in the face of political injustice.  Here the viewer becomes so totally invested in the heroine’s compulsion to record what she witnesses that, paradoxically, the action itself seems less subjectively colored.

Lenser John Christian Rosenlund, who collaborated with Poppe on the helmer’s previous gem, “Troubled Water,” lets bright Afghani and African landscapes and northern-lit Irish seascapes exist on the same color palette, underscoring Binoche’s one-world viewpoint.  Armand Amar’s score subtly builds tension.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'A Thousand Times Goodnight'

Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (competing), Aug. 31, 2013. Running time: 117 MIN.

Production:

(Norway) A Nordisk Film Distribution release of a Paradox production in co-production with Zentropa International Sweden, Newgrange Pictures, Film i Vast, with the participation of Norsk Filminstitutt, Irish Film Board. (International sales: Global Screen, Munich.) Produced by Finn Gjerdrum, Stein B Kvae. Executive producers, Peter Garde, Erik Poppe, Finn Gjerdrum, Stein B. Kvae, Geir Eikeland, Stig Haug. Co-producers, Jackie Larkin, Lesley Minim, Madeleine Ekman, Jessica Ask.

Crew:

Directed by Erik Poppe. Screenplay, Harald Rosenlow Eeg. Camera (color, widescreen), John Christian Rosenlund; editor, Sofia Lindgren; music, Armand Amar; production designer, Eleanor Wood, costume designer Judith Williams; sound, Mervyn Moore; sound designer/supervising sound editor, Hugo Ekornes; casting, Maureen Hughes.

With:

Juliette Binoche, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lauryn Canny, Adrianna Cramer Curtis, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Larry Muller Jr., Mads Ousdal. (English dialogue)

More Film

  • (from left) Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson)

    Box Office: 'Hobbs & Shaw' Scores $102 Million Debut in China, Nears $600 Million Globally

    Universal’s “Hobbs & Shaw” returned to first place on international box office charts, thanks to a massive $102 million debut in China. The “Fast & Furious” spinoff, starring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, collected another $120 million overseas, boosting its foreign tally to $441 million. “Hobbs & Shaw” is nearing the $600 million mark globally, [...]

  • Angel Has Fallen

    Box Office: 'Angel Has Fallen' Rises to No. 1 With $21 Million Debut

    “Angel Has Fallen,” the third chapter in Lionsgate and Millenium’s action franchise starring Gerard Butler, had a stronger opening weekend than expected, collecting $21.25 million during its first three days of release. Those ticket sales were enough to top domestic box office charts, bumping last weekend’s champ, Universal’s comedy “Good Boys,” to second place. Starring [...]

  • Amanda

    ‘Amanda’ Takes Home Best Int’l Film at 15th Sanfic

    SANTIAGO, Chile    French director Mikhael Hers’ “Amanda” scooped up the Best Int’l Film award Saturday (Aug. 24) at the 15th Santiago Int’l Film Fest (Sanfic), which reported a 20% audience uptick in the past two years and continues to grow its reputation as the most vibrant and prominent film festival in Latin America’s Southern [...]

  • disney d23

    Cruella, Kit Harington and Black Panther's Return: Everything We Learned at D23 Day Two

    Not to be outdone by the avalanche of series orders and casting announcements bolstering the new streaming series Disney Plus, Walt Disney Studios showed off its film wares in a marathon presentation at D23 on Saturday. The Anaheim, Calif. expo brought star power, if perhaps fewer surprises than Friday’s presentation, as fans in princess and [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift'The

    Taylor Swift Downplays Association With Harvey Weinstein

    Taylor Swift’s association with disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was among the topics the singer addressed in a revealing new interview with The Guardian. Weinstein held producer credits for the movies “One Chance” and “The Giver,” both of which featured Swift — in the former, a song, and in the latter, a supporting role. She [...]

  • Breaking Bad Movie

    'Breaking Bad' Movie: Watch the First Teaser for 'El Camino'

    In case you hadn’t heard, Emmy-winning drama “Breaking Bad” is cooking up a movie sequel. On Saturday, after details of Netflix’s project quietly leaked online, the streaming giant issued the first teaser for “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” which will be released on October 11. Starring Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, the “Breaking Bad” [...]

  • Samara Weaving and Adam Brody Big

    'Ready or Not': That Time Samara Weaving Hit Andie MacDowell in the Face

    Samara Weaving didn’t mean to hurt Andie MacDowell, but she did just that while they were rehearsing for their new horror dark comedy “Ready or Not.” “I hit Andie MacDowell in the face by accident,” Weaving says on this week’s episode of “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s movie podcast. “It was horrible. It was [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content