Philippa Paccard (Cate Blanchett), a schoolteacher in Turin, Italy, deeply disturbed by the police's laissez-faire attitude toward the drug dealers that are destroying her life as well as the children she teaches, places a bomb in a dealer's cover office. When the bomb goes off and somehow kills four innocent people instead, she is arrested for this supposed terrorism. She collapses when she hears about the deaths she had never planned. Filippo (Giovanni Ribisi), the police translator, believes in her innocence, and helps her to escape. Philippa believes she should face justice for her action, but Filippo has fallen in love with her, to the extent of becoming a fugitive from justice with her.
From a script co-written by Krzysztof Kieslowski, German hotshot director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) crafts an elegantly shot thriller, which manages to be compelling until its final act. Frank Griebe's cinematography for Heaven is elegant in the extreme, as is Mathilde Bonnefoy's watertight editing. Believable as a would-be terrorist, Blanchett gives her usual strong, single-minded performance (which here really works) and manages to look more delicately beautiful than she ever has on screen before (even with a shaven head). Ribisi is more problematical. Appealing when playing homegrown slackers, he is here saddled with a wavering Italian accent and body language. He acquits himself ably, but it's an actor's exercise, more effective in a class than as the lead in a film. The tension is sustained up until the moment these two very unlikely lovers pair off romantically. There is little sexual charge between them, and they come off as two weird androgynes with matching names and haircuts. The appearance of Filippo's kindly, grizzled, retired cop of a Dad (Remo Girone) is pure clich. (In Old Hollywood, he would have been played by Alan Hale or Ward Bond.) Tykwer tracks the couple into the pastoral countryside, which becomes the setting for all manner of sudden mystical looniness, with the final, whimsical conceit being the very kind of thing that might have audiences ruing the time and money just spent.