Tom Tykwer has not become a household name as a result of directing the 1998
film stylization of that year, "Run
Lola Run". And, one might have wondered then where his taste for the
unique and, perhaps, tricky concepts might take him. After a followup with
his delicious star, Franka Potente, "The Princess and the Warrior" in 2000,
he now demonstrates how such flair for the unique can be used in a straight,
character driven drama.
The story, from a script by Krzysztof Kieslowski ("Red", "White", "Blue")
written originally in Polish in 1996, plays with an always vital question:
how do we feel toward a person who commits a bad act in a good cause? Do we
praise or condemn a person for murdering an evil man who is protected by the
It is no small part of the sympathetic answer to those questions that the
perp, here, Philippa Paccard, a British schoolteacher living in Turin, Italy,
is played by the stunning Cate Blanchett ("Elizabeth") in a new corner of her
expansive range of possibilities. She puts us in a sympathetic mode even
while she plants her bomb with the intention of avenging her dead husband who
died at the hands of a very well protected drug dealer. We remain
sympathetic even as she tries to convince her interrogators that, while she
is, indeed, guilty of planting the bomb, she is not part of a terrorist cell.
Despite her honest confession, it's a hard sell to the hardnoses. But,
there's a softy in the room.
It's no accident, either, that this is set in Italy, where police corruption
comes with the pasta, where it's believable that the worst kind of
criminals can operate under an umbrella of certain protection by a complicit
department of police. And, again, it's no accident that Giovanni Ribisi, an
American actor who is perfectly at home with the language and the culture in
which he's the out-of-the-loop police officer Filippo, brought in to guard
and then to interpret the notorious Englishwoman for the interrogation.
She knows how deserving of death is her intended target, how vile and
dangerous he is, and how capable of escaping any consequences for his crimes.
What she doesn't know is that her bomb was inadvertently moved and wound up
killing four innocents. She also doesn't know that Filippo is flipping for
her, and will soon be offering his extraordinary escape plans for her.
Rather, for the both of them, for he's about to give up any idea for a career
as an Italian police officer. This is all the more regretful since he's
there because of the illustrious career of his father (Remo Girone).
The only resemblance this bears to "Run Lola Run" is the aspect of the chase,
but there it fades to something entirely different. In a step-by-step escape
scenario, against heavy odds, he puts two intriguing characters playing out
their options according to the terms of their situation and the moral
determination that motivates the action. It nicely balances questions of
justice and culpability, vigilatism and corruption, and is ultimately a
satisfying 93 minute run through Italian institutions and countrysides.
This, despite some criticism in the entertainment press that I found
aggravatingly inappropriate. One reviewer, in some sort of pique about Tom
Tykwer's success and subsequent promise, questions his gifts by referring to
his taste for action and movement, saying that "if he stayed in one
place for long, he would soon be stranded in the shallows of his
imagination." This is neither valid nor a demonstration of much movie making
understanding. Rather, it comes off as a blatant display of attitudinal envy
having no relevance to "Heaven".
When this reviewer adds that the picture "doesn't have the courage of its
conceit, only an abundance of bad ideas and worse taste" one has to wonder
what movie they saw. It wasn't the "Heaven" that I did, which I thought
engaging, tasteful and daring.
~~ Jules Brenner