Montag, 10. Februar 2014

Berlinale: '71 / Jack

Not being well-versed in the historical background of the political/military conflicts in Northern Ireland would prevent one from following the often unspoken intrigues and plots depicted in the British competition entry "'71". Still, even without a full appreciation of the subtler nuances of the story, it's impossible to overlook the technical achievement of this film. Director Yann Demange, making his feature film debut here, shows a real knack for staging breathtakingly tense, edge-of-your-seat action scenes. In one extended chase sequence set in a residential compound, his directorial prowess is on full display as clever, freely-shifting camera angles, rawly atmospheric lighting and lensing, expertly-timed editing and a riveting drums-heavy score join forces to form such a tight grip over your throat it's the sweetest type of ordeal. Rising star Jack O'Connell has an easy confidence on screen that never wavers but the most watchable of the able cast is the utterly unreadable Sean Harris, who adds that extra cinematic weight whenever he appears. The final act of the movie leaves something to be desired, so the message of war-is-evil/ carnage-breeds-more-carnage doesn't quite come across so compellingly, but overall this is a very well-crafted action thriller about the senseless horror of violence.

There's at once too little and too much in the German competition entry "Jack". The plot is too simplistically constructed, lacking real surprises or narrative its account of two children deserted by their mother and having to fend for themselves in Berlin. At the same time, so much repetition is used (there is a lot of walking and running) to hammer home the very basic idea of abandonment the magical naturalistic ease of a Dardenne film gets drowned out in the abundant triviality. This is not to say there are no moments of true heartbreak in this movie. The sincerely told and cleanly shot family/social drama has good intentions and angelic tenderness written all over and features scenes that just destroy you with their (un)kindness, but the writer/director duo Edward Berger & Nele Mueller-Stöfen, also making their film debut here, fails to sustain that shattering impact and loses much of it to the long stretches of in-between wanderings. 11-year-old lead actor Ivo Pietzcker is well cast as the title character and delivers an affecting performance as the boy forced to grow up by fear, guilt, responsibility and in the end, the most painful realization of all.

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