Storm (2010 dir. Hans-Christian Schmid
Starring: Kerry Fox, Anamaria Marinca, Stephen Dillane, Rolf Lassgård, Kresimir Mikic
By Alan Bacchus
If you haven’t heard of Film Movement, it’s one of the more unique film distributors around, an institution as treasured as say, the Criterion Collection. Film festival-goers know that some of the best films are the ones you have no expectations or advance knowledge about, but unfortunately, despite the quality, many of these never see the light again. Well, the mandate of Film Movement is to ensure these films find a home this side of the continent. And through its unique monthly DVD service club every month one of these films comes directly to you.
The selection for June is Hans-Christian Schmid’s Storm, a multilingual German-Dutch-Bosnian-Serbian co-pro which was lauded in Berlinale in 2009, and only now finds its audience in the US and Canada.
The title refers to the aggressive action taken against the Serbian leaders for their genocidal atrocities in the 90’s. Brit Kerry Fox plays Hannah the prosecutor for The Hague’s War Tribunal against a wily Serbian commander, a fictionalized version of Slobodan Milosevic or Radovan Karadzic. It would appear to be a slam dunk until Hannah’s key eye witness perjures himself and then dies in an apparent suicide attempt.
Hope is restored when the sister of the witness Mira (Anamarie Marinca) reluctantly reveals herself to be the real eye witness. Despite death threats and other terrorism tactics against her and her family Mira ponies up the gumption to talk about the atrocities she’s witnessed and take down the war criminals for good.
There’s a distinct Soderbergh/Gaghan neo-political tone which puts itself into the Syriana, Traffic, Michael Clayton brand of thriller. While there's some threats of violence against Mira and covert spy tactics threatening Hannah, the stakes of the film exist in the big picture demand to see the Serbian War Criminals find Justice. Unfortunately we don’t know the Serb too well, despite having the film’s entire opening sequence devoted to his capture.
For good and bad, the pacing and volume is also deliberately muted –establishing its credibility and responsibility to the struggles of the characters’ real world equivalents who to this day continue to exact justice. In an effort not to sensationalize the subject matter it also means external conflict and tension don’t quite reach the magnitude we need to truly feel the cinematic emotional punch of the story. After all its lawyers vs. lawyers as the baddies, who, for the most part are faceless suits pulling strings off screen and in the background.
That said there’s a fabulous lead performance from Kerry Fox which was virtually invisible to the world cinema landscape at large. Hell, she was better than Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side, but I doubt Oscar ever crossed any Academy member's mind. The other added attraction is seeing 4 Month, 3 Weeks, 2 Days’ Anamaria Marinca on screen again. She has such remarkable eyes and reactions, and with very little to work with, she, as in her more famous role, is magnetic.
Storm, a 2009 Berlin IFF winner, is now available on DVD from Film Movement. For info about Film Movement Canada’s DVD of the Month Club, click HERE