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In The Fade review: Diane Kruger leads the cast of this German-language feature from director Fatih Akin, a film that is part-courtroom drama, part revenge-thriller, all set around a family tragedy, a bombing in central Hamburg.

In The Fade review by Paul Heath, May 2017.

In The Fade review
In The Fade review

The Family, Justice, and The Sea are the titles give to the three very distinct parts of this film, each of them kicking off with amateur video footage setting the scene. The first opens in what appears to be in a prison with one of the inmates dressed in a white tuxedo. This is Nuri (Numan Acar), a German-Turkish man who is about to marry his bride, Diane Kruger’s Katja, a tattooed hipster waiting for him in the visitor’s room. Fast-forward a couple of years’ post title card and we’re in the family home, the couple now with child, six-year-old Rocco, a be speckled cutie who accompanies his mother, the proud Katja to her husband’s place of work, an office in the middle of Hamburg. Now running his own business, a tax advisory service-cum travel agent set-up after by Nuri after studying business while in prison, it appears that Rocco is going to spend the afternoon with his father, Katja having a well-deserved time off at a nearby spa with close friend Steffi (Jessica McIntyre). Returning to the office some hours later under the cover of darkness, it appears that something is wrong. Police sirens and ambulances everywhere, Katja is soon told that a bomb has been detonated ahead, seemingly directly outside of Nuri’s office, and is later informed that two people have been killed in the blast – which we soon find out is Nuri and their son. In the aftermath of the tragedy comes a series of events, split into the three chapters, covering Katja’s heartache and mourning, the justice that follows and ultimately revenge.

In The Fade review
In The Fade review

In The Fade is a very accessible feature cut to a very lean 100 minutes. With its far-right subject matter, which has obviously never been more relevant, Akin’s film is urgent, deeply-emotional and utterly engrossing. While in places the film teeters on the edge of TV melodrama in places, particularly during the court-room based middle section, Akin manages to absorb us into the narrative, always caring about what happens to the Kurger’s Katja. We obviously empathise with her throughout, even during her more darker moments, all of which comes from the German-born actress’ stunning performance in the lead. Kruger, who we are now used to seeing in big-budget Hollywood fare like Troy, Inglourious Basterds and National Treasure etc., has never been better than here. Her Katja is tortured throughout and the actress’ jaw-dropping turn, particularly during the opening third, is absolutely mesmerising, the viewer feeling her pain every step of the way.

If there was one slight flaw with the film then it is its predictability. The official synopsis tells us that it is a revenge film, so we know we’re going to see Katja take the law into her own hands at some point, so the impact of the conclusion of the second act isn’t at all surprising. That said, Akin’s direction, the filmmaker employing everything from the famous reverse dolly zoom shot to a brilliant brooding, building soundtrack, delivers true tension, particularly when combined with Kruger’s delivery.

In The Fade review
In The Fade review

The ending could be labelled as being a bit neat, and the resolution could raise some morality debate, but I found it to be perfectly fine. It’s the kind of film that screams out for a Hollywood remake – which it will probably get (maybe with Kruger reprising the central role), but it’s hard to see how anything could top this excellent thriller from Akin, a film that received the loudest and longest round of applause at this year’s Cannes film festival press screenings so far. Devastating, emotionally charged stuff.

In The Fade review by Paul Heath, May 2017.

In The Fade is currently playing at the Sydney Film Festival. It is still awaiting a release date.

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In The Fade