The Balkans burn­ing

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

IF YOU were feel­ing mean, you could point out that this fas­ci­nat­ing court­room thriller – a rare cin­e­matic at­tempt to ad­dress the Balkan atroc­i­ties of the 1990s – has to fall back on a great deal of ex­pos­i­tory di­a­logue and spo­ken ed­i­to­ri­al­is­ing. But there should be room for such things in the cin­ema.

Hans-Chris­tian Sch­mid, di­rec­tor of the su­perb Re­quiem, for­swears flash for an im­pres­sively sober dis­sec­tion of one, partly fic­tion­alised case. Maybe the re­sult looks a lit­tle like a su­pe­rior TV drama, but it is no less grip­ping or mov­ing for that.

Kerry Fox stars as Han­nah May­nard, a pros­e­cu­tor at the War Crimes Tri­bunal in The Hague. The pic­ture be­gins with a wit­ness to a mas­sacre com­mit­ting sui­cide af­ter his ev­i­dence is dis­cred­ited in the court­room.

In her sub­se­quent in­ves­ti­ga­tions, Han­nah en­coun­ters the man’s sis­ter (the su­perb Ana­maria Mar­inca from 4 Months, 3Weeks and 2 Days) and re­alises that she can of­fer un­shak­able tes­ti­mony that

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should lead to the con­vic­tion of a par­tic­u­larly ruth­less war­lord. Even­tu­ally the woman is per­suaded, but, as the trial looms, it be­comes clear that the au­thor­i­ties are en­ter­tain­ing a plea bar­gain that will ex­clude her most damn­ing ev­i­dence.

Fea­tur­ing dis­ci­plined per­for­mances from all con­cerned, Storm (named for a 1995 op­er­a­tion by the Croa­t­ian forces) man­ages an en­tic­ing blend of cool anal­y­sis and emo­tional in­ten­sity. The film is scep­ti­cal about the pro­cesses of such tribunals, but cau­tiously hope­ful about the im­pact one com­mit­ted lawyer can make.

The most sin­gu­lar as­pect of the film is, how­ever, its de­pic­tion of the rel­e­vant EU direc­torate as a men­ac­ing amal­gam of Smersh and the Il­lu­mi­nati. Euro­crats have never seemed so glam­orously sin­is­ter.

Wit­ness pro­tec­tion: Ana­maria Mar­inca in Storm

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