Director: Fatih Akin
18 | 1h 46min | Crime, Drama | 22 June 2018 (UK)
Star Diane Kruger certainly delivers the acting goods in Fatih Akin’s In The Fade; she walked away from Cannes with the Best Actress prize last year for her turn as a woman who works as her Turkish expat husband's tax advice business partner in Hamburg’s Turkish quarter, only to suddenly have her free-spirited life collapse when said husband Nuri (NUmab Acar) and pre-teen son are killed by a nail bomb. Sadly, Kruger's performance isn't matched in quality by the rest of the film, which feels like three different films mashed into one, frequently resorts to cliched signposting, and stretches believability in the last act.
The first and second acts pack more punch, with Kruger convincingly complex and suitably wounded as she roils in the pressure cooker of grief under unimaginable circumstances. The screenplay complicates our reaction to Katja's predicament somewhat by showing how the trauma reactivates some of her past life's darker habits: namely hard drug use (her husband was a low-level dealer who she met working on his case in prison, only to marry him and help him leave the life after his parole). Both sides of her family clash with her, over both her behaviour and funeral plans. Gracefully grieving this is not.
Then the film segues into a tense courtroom drama that actually runs for a lot longer than you might think, taking up nearly 40 minutes of screen time. It is standard to see films criticised for having a 'saggy middle', but In the Fade's strongest section lies here. Set in a bleached-white, eerily clinical courthouse, the trial looks like it will proceed on a cut-and-dried course given the evidence against the suspects (who are Neo-Nazis), and Katja's hotshot lawyer friend Danilo ( Denis Moschitto) brings plenty of swagger at the start. But every day of the trial, thanks to a confident defence team and a row of surprise witnesses, keeps deteriorating to a nail-biting conclusion for Kaja, with her certainty of getting a conviction always left in doubt. Still, even here I found myself feeling the outcome of the trial relied on too much contrivance and unlikely decisions so we can get set for the third act, and the defence team are stereotypically slimy.
As topical as it feels to tackle the rise of the far right in Germany. as opposed to resorting to another focus on Islamic terrorism in Europe, the film really feels like it is hammering its message of 'hate begets hate' home far too heavily in its final third-act swerve into a vigilante thriller, as well as simply stretching believability into what Katja would be willing to do and be capable of accomplishing, least of all when she still has options to pursue her targets within the law.