Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
IN THE FADE
Similar to Jackie Chan’s latest Liam Neeson-ing in THE FOREIGNER, Diane Kruger tries her hand at it in director Fatih Akin’s IN THE FADE. This character-driven, grief-fueled revenge flick is admirable in its aims; however, just like the aforementioned film, it also fumbles. Despite being emotionally unrelenting and taut, and housing a fantastic performance from its lead, it still makes calculated mistakes that hobble its intent.
Katja (Kruger) and husband Nuri (Numan Acar) have experienced rocky beginnings to their lives together, but all has leveled out thanks to their love of their adorable young son Rocco (Rafael Santana). She’s been sober – off drugs for years – and he’s turned his life around since being in prison for selling them. Life as Katja knows it changes drastically when, out of nowhere, Nuri and Rocco are taken from her, killed in a devastating terrorist bombing at his office. Friends and family rally around her during this difficult time, but the police inquisition winds up opening wounds rather than helping to close them. Luckily, it’s not long until the police find the suspects – and then justice can be served. Or will it? Her lawyer/ Nuri’s best friend Danilo (Denis Moschitto) will help, but will Katja be able to withstand the excruciating trial?
Where this film finds success is in the material given to Kruger. Akin, along with co-writer Hark Bohm, make sure to thoroughly explore every facet of Katja’s broken spirit and psyche. Her pain is achingly palpable. Her grief is unimaginable. Her struggle is evident in every nuance and unspoken emotion. This is wildly feminist and – to a certain, reality-based extent (moreso than the TAKEN movies) – defiantly subversive. Because she’s a woman, no one really expects her character to exact revenge. Kruger pushes herself to extremes, and that authenticity resonates through the screen. Whether it’s yelling at her unhelpful mother or absorbing scorn from her in-laws, her character drive is placed at the forefront. It’s great that the material is there to give her subtle moments to shine.
That said, there’s a certain amount of disbelief to suspend in order to get on board with the heroine’s journey. There are times where it’s clear that the narrative is driving her character rather than vice versa. It’s unreal that her lawyer would ever give her drugs knowing she’s facing a trial where anything could be called into question. The scars on her arms and the hospital records of an attempted suicide are never factors in the trial – so why should the mere suspicion of drugs be? If the trial verdict doesn’t trigger your incredulity, these other details might.
Nevertheless, attention should still be paid to this film – if not solely for the lead performance, but also because films like this that feature such ballsy roles for women can and should continue to be made.
IN THE FADE plays AFI Fest on November 10 and 14. It opens on December 27.