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September the 1st, 2001. Elliot, an American C.I.A. agent holding top secret information on the immediate future of the world, disappears. His sole aim was to meet his daughter Orlando, whom he abandoned ten years before. Irène, a French agent who used to work with him, and David, his adoptive son, will help him and lead the girl to her father. Chased by William Pound, a strangely poetic psycho, they will defy the dangers of international espionage from Paris to Venice and finally get to Elliot on September the 11th 2001. Written by
Final scene in Venice the characters are sitting as sun rises in early morning and then the scene shifts to the TV in café with news of 9/11 attack. In Venice the news would have been in the afternoon after mid day meal not early morning. See more »
If you ever want to stop a cell phone working again, remind me to show you something easier than throwing it out a train window.
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This is not really a spy thriller, despite its appearance. This is the story of the fantastic threesome told stylishly (and sometimes mischievously, verging on black humour) as they romp merrily through Paris and Venice. The spying stuff and the pre-911 intrigue are only for providing a convenient stage for the characters to play on. And don't expect anything remotely resembling the intricate web of espionage you see in Syrianna. "A few days in September" is actually quite simple, if you strip away the clever disguises. But all this is very entertaining business.
The threesome is an ex-spy (now a "spy trainer") Irene taking a young woman from France and a young man from America on a happy excursion through Paris and Venice to meet their father Elliot, a mysterious figure. Orlando and David, who meet for the very first time in their lives, are only step-siblings, with no real blood relations, and you can sense where that is going, despite their initial animosity, the sure sign of a budding romance. When Orland was a little girl, her mother was killed and Elliot left his daughter in Europe as he was recalled to the States. No wonder she hates him. Back home, he married David's mother, and his new step-son adores him. The story opens after Elliot had been sent back across the Atlantic on some secret mission. Where does Irene come in? A certain secretive party, wanting to meet the ever elusive Elliot for a secretary reason, works through Irene. Elliot finally gives his consent, on condition that Irene brings both his son and daughter to see him at the meeting. Complicated? Not really. Just add a weird assassin William Pound persistently lurking behind the three for an ultimate clean shot at Elliot. There you have everything you need to know, more or less.
It is not easy to fit this movie into a nice little niche. Most of the movie is constructed around the trail of the threesome, chasing after one after another aborted meeting with Elliot. The fact that all these happen through picturesque Paris and Venice is of course delightful. In this movie, we have playful wit, amusing character clashes (you can guess between whom), adventure, tasteful romance and character development. Parallel to that is a character that might have come out of "Pulp fiction", one William Pound who evokes William Blake's ominous "Tiger, tiger burning bright" during a bloody killing, and an assortment of other poets on other similar occasions. He also gets telephone consultation from his shrink on a regular basis. (David, incidentally, is another lover of poetry, and we learn later that he acquired the taste from his step-father.) There is a connection with 911 - the entire duration of the movie, as the title intimates, is from the 5th to the 11th of September, 2001, and no one needs to be particularly clever to guess that therein lies the secret of Elliot's elusiveness. There is even the expected discussion on why people hate Americans, but it is not meant to have any depth. At the end of the day, this is a witty, stylish, entertaining movie, seasoned also with a few pinches of black humour. No, not pretentious. You can be pretentious only when you are serious. But serious this movie certainly is not.
The director seems to have a penchant, for this movie at least, for out-focus shots. Here, they works on two levels. First, they create a special mood of mild intrigue and suspense. But they are also POVs of Irene, who wears eye-glasses. When she takes them off, it is as if she is inviting the audience to join her in taking a break from the excitement of the espionage world to enjoy the beauty of Venice through a mist that enhances your imagination.
It is delightful to see Binoche in an uncharacteristic role, a cool (like, in teenage language) ex-agent trying to out-maneuver seasoned adversaries and baby-sit the pair of young people at the same time, and all this while not forgetting to enjoy herself. Sara Forestier ("Hell", "Perfume: the story of a murderer") plays taciturn Orlando who seems to have a perpetual toothache, which is understandable in view of an experience in her traumatic childhood. But she can be sweet, once her defense is broken down by the easy humour of David. Unknown British actor Tom Riley plays American young man David with the right mix of charm and awkwardness. If he were a little more flamboyant, he could remind you of Hugh Grant. John Turturro ("Oh Brother, where art thou") brings to the movie another dimension, as the eccentric assassin, but you will have to switch on your black humour frequency to get the most out of his performance.
Not top-billed, but must be mentioned, is inimitable Nick Nolte. This superb actor seems to be the best choice when you have a character that appears only in the last 15 minutes but will fill the screen when a huge presence is needed. If you've seen "A beautiful country" (2004) you'll know what I mean. It's also interesting to note that Binoche and Nick were both in "Paris je t'ame", in separate segments.
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