Film Review: In the Fade

Aftermath of a terrorist attack leaves a mother searching for answers in a troubling drama from director Fatih Akin.
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The premise couldn't be timelier. A happy family, a terrorist bomb, a grieving widow and mother on her own. Fatih Akin's In the Fade doesn't just spring from news events, it attacks its story with an intensity that leaves characters and viewers alike emotionally stunned.

A methodical filmmaker, director and co-writer (with Hark Bohm), Akin builds In the Fade in simple steps. Katja (Diane Kruger) marries drug dealer Nuri (Numan Acar) against her family's wishes. Nuri reforms and becomes an activist helping Kurdish refugees. He's with their son Rocco (Rafael Santana) when a bomb destroys his office.

Akin uses a documentary style to portray what follows. The police gather evidence and question witnesses. They think rival drug dealers are responsible at first, and for a time Katja herself is a suspect. Each clue leads to another, and with plodding thoroughness the investigators find enough to bring a neo-Nazi couple to trial.

The courtroom scenes unfold in excruciating detail, with Katja forced to watch and listen to medical testimony about what happened to her husband and son. She is powerless to stop the defense's lies and smears. The German justice system may seem unfamiliar, but not the tactics lawyers use to twist facts and malign witnesses.

The verdict sends Katja into an emotional tailspin that is painful to watch. What she learns from the trial enables her to seek her own form of justice. And it's exactly here that Akin's strict realism begins to cloud the story.

Katja's anger may be justified to viewers, but how she achieves her revenge in some ways reduces her to the level of the terrorists she is fighting. And by showing how terrorists operate in such meticulous detail, Akin is in danger of encouraging similar behavior.

Akin is too smart a filmmaker not to realize the risks he is taking. In the Fade is made with skill and precision, both on technical terms and in its performances. Diane Kruger is a marvel, effortlessly portraying a range of emotions, never giving in to sentimental touches, never flinching from her character's behavior. The other performers are uniformly excellent.

Akin makes passionate films that address difficult questions. In the Fade will be an acid test for his fans and for moviegoers in general. It's a film almost no one really wants to see, a story of cruel, senseless bereavement without a hint of closure. Yet it deals with some of the central issues of our time, problems that are argued daily. Given Kruger's remarkable performance, Akin's determination as a director and the movie's excellent production values, In the Fade is not to be missed, no matter how difficult its subject matter.

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