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I saw this picture after a critics recommendation. As a retired Lawyer I was fascinated by the Hague and its world Court process in prosecuting the atrocities of the Muslums and others in Bosnia. It is a cerebral thriller. It is more interested in pursuing the criminals who were the Leaders of these horrible crimes. It is a great film about the legal system no matter what the court. It relies on drama, good acting rather than tales of horror. The trial scenes are simple yet riveting and suspenseful. It is also a great pleasure that my wife and I knew NONE of the cast, making the film that much better. It always amazes me how many good filmmakers there are in the world who out perform the crap that Hollywood makes. The over blown-in love with special effects is so juvenile it is revolting. Suffice to say Im not a kids anymore and is great to know there are people who recognize that there is an adult mature audience hungering for such films. It is also a thriller, so I guarantee you wont be bored. See it as soon as you can since it is very limited release!!
It is hard for people outside of the United Nations crimes courts to know quite how that world feels from the inside. I think it's too foreign, in every way, to know. And Hollywood tends to approach this kind of situation with heightened drama, exaggerated flair, darker darks and more romantic romances. I'm not a U.N. insider, but this isn't Hollywood and "Storm" feels as close to getting to the reality of that world as you can get in a fictional milieu. That's the brilliance of the filmmakers, withholding and avoiding undue drama but also making the characters complex and interesting.
Of course, restraint isn't always the way to engross your audience, and "Storm" tends to be interesting all along. It feels important and principled, a lot like its characters. This might help it last as a classic of some sort, gaining over time some of the shine it doesn't quite have now. But there is also the issue of why, exactly, the victims of war atrocities in the Bosnian conflict were forgotten by most of the world in the years after the war ended. From an American point of view, Yugoslavia had always seemed far away, not quite Europe, not quite Asia, becoming a mix of newly minted countries from the dissolution of a big one that had always remained isolated internationally. But the Europeans understand one of their own, and if this movie is right, it seems that Bosnia (and Serbia et al) were largely forgotten once the actual war was over. "Storm" is a particularly European approach to the issue, a Danish film overall, but a multi-culti multi-country production that fits its subject perfectly.
This movie is about a kind of dogged heroism that is part of the glory, really (no joke) of the United Nations. You come to appreciate the struggling, idealist foreign service and civil rights work that goes on at the lower levels of the U.N. completely out of sight, but critically important. Here the fight is led by a discouraged mid-career lawyer played by Kerry Fox with something approaching perfection. Her character is so everyday (for a high powered lawyer), you sometimes forget that the actress is pulling it off so well. The second lead comes in only halfway through, the equally brilliant Romanian actress Anamaria Marinca, who is a victim being coaxed into testifying, even though it is putting her life and her family in mortal danger.
Not many movies get made about this world in part because it's a little dry. There are no shootouts or bombs, just suspicious glares, sudden backroom decisions. But it's an important movie, at least it was for me, giving me just a small insight into that world, and into the social wreckage of the Bosnian war. If it had been given more drama, it would have acquired more hype, and director Hans-Christian Schmid deserves a bow for his steadfastness.
In researching a little, I found this review which I thought was really well written, you might also enjoy: http://www.filmcritic.com/reviews/2009/storm/
Or just see the darned movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film was supposed to be done in 2007 and to talk about a Croatian
war crime criminal Ante Gotovina that was arrested in Spain and the
infamous 'Storm' (military offensive in Croatia in 1995), but somehow
the title stayed, but the story changed (probably doing the long
research) and it's about a trial against a Serbian commander from the
same war (who gets caught in Spain at the beginning of the film though)
and the main roles (the convict and his lawyer) were played by
Croatians which was funny. The commander's name and the place where he
allegedly committed crimes are fiction, except the hotel's name that
was modified, but who can speak the language will get it.
Anyway, doesn't matter which side is being the bad one, a war criminal is a war criminal but also a national hero for some. What I like about this film is that it's remarkably restrained for a political film, there are no flashbacks to the wars in the Balkans because in the first place it covers the dynamics of the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) in pretty much critical way, how it works (shown from personal and public perspective), how time pressure on witnesses, judges, prosecutors.. should be reduced because the UN plans closing the Tribunal by the end of 2010 and many things have been left untold, unsolved, criminals unpunished.. It yearns for public awareness hoping something will change. It portrays how difficult it is to run a lawsuit when you can't make witnesses testify because they are afraid for their lives and families, when even after so many years some people are not ready to speak, the others are not capable of accepting the terrible crimes violating human rights as crimes that should be punished. It shows women's zeal for justice and punishment more than men's, people trying to maintain their balance when everything's unjust, betrayals, political countermeasures.. In this film a hero may not get the villain, the victim may not get to testify like she wants and the justice may not be satisfied because even at high court as this one justice is just a part of political games, a lot of compromises are being made because a lot of things are at stake (for example the witness' testimony may jeopardize the political need to bring various states from ex-Yugoslavia into the EU, it should be done as smoothly as possible and everything else is less important, even justice).
The heart of the film lies in the scene when a witness finds out that she won't be allowed to testify about her ordeal she asks a question about the ICTY in the fury - What kind of court is this? What the hell is it actually for?! The frustrating answer which is hard to accept is - Partial justice is better than none.
And I should add superb acting by leading female roles Kerry Fox and Anamaria Marinca, the Notwist's music in the background giving the special cold feeling to the whole murky atmosphere and making the film good as it is, but still it has more sense to people from the region or those involved with the Tribunal.
"Storm" is a superb drama about the continuing search for justice for
crimes committed more than a decade ago during the war in Bosnia.
The brilliant Kerry Fox stars as Hannah Maynard, a prosecutor working at the Haige, who is mounting a case against a Yugoslavian army commander, Goran Duric (Drazen Kuhn), who may have played a part in Serbian ethnic cleansing. The equally affecting Anamaria Marinca plays Mira, a young woman who was repeatedly raped under Duric's orders, but who has since moved to Germany to try and forget the past and to start a new life with her husband and young son. Yet, under Hannah's insistence, Mira is eventually convinced to do the right thing i.e. to come forward as a witness against Duric - at great personal risk to herself and her family.
The screenplay by Bernd Lange and director Hans-Christian Schmid is multi-layered and complex, with each character emerging as a fully fleshed-out human being. Hannah is largely motivated by a righteous zeal and a desire to see true justice achieved through the court of law. Yet, there are moments when her motives are brought into question, when even the man she is dating accuses her of using the case more as a stepping-stone in her career than as a means of achieving a noble ideal. Similarly, Mira is torn between the desire to see that justice is finally done and the understandable need to secure a safe and peaceful life for her and her family. But there are more than issues of mere justice involved here, for by suppressing the horrors of what happened to her in the past, Mira has, in many ways, prevented herself from moving on with her life, a condition she may be able to rectify if she agrees to testify against Duric.
Beyond the character dilemmas, there is the broader issue of whether justice can ever be truly achieved in cases such as these, especially given the delicate political nature of such trials. Too often, for instance, the EU finds itself not wanting to "rock the boat" with present and future member nations and, thus, turns a blind eye to many of the obvious atrocities that have occurred in those places in the recent past.
Rife with human drama and enflamed by a righteous passion, "Storm" is an engrossing and vital recounting of recent tragic history.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a powerful and moving view of the ambiguity of international
justice (and maybe anyone seeking a just outcome). The writing is
spare, almost barren, so the actors must bring the story to life. Kerry
Fox, Anamaria Marinca, Stephen Dillane, Rolf Lassgård, Alexander
Fehling, Tarik Filipovic,provide remarkable nuanced performances. While
the pacing is slow, it is necessary to appreciate the moral and ethical
ambiguity that both the prosecutor and victim must endure in their
pursuits of justice, or truth. (You may remember Anamaria Marinca in
Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1032846/) a heart breaking story of two
women struggling in Ceauceseau's Romania).
The writing provides multiple points of conflict but there is little resolution, at least not that American audiences are accustomed to. There won't be a speech into the camera delivered with the intensity of Sean Penn. Instead, there will be small acts of defiance - which may not be as dramatic as American audiences are accustomed to seeing - but they are delivered with no less moral courage.
Watch for small but poignant scenes between Kerry Fox and the President of the tribunal, or between Kerry Fox's character and her immediate boss. Is the prosecutor merely acting as a person that is bitter about losing out on a promotion or is he she motivated by higher purposes? Is Anamaria Marinca's character motivated to release a personal secret or seek justice? (See if you think her character is seeking redemption and release from testifying. The relationship with her husband and how she deals with her secret are telling.) This is not a person that would tell the world on Oprah - she seeks something greater than personal therapy.)
The title remains intriguing. What storm are they referring to? The vicious acts that set into motion the plot? Or the response of the prosecutor and the victim to not only the criminal acts but the manner by which the international court decides to confront them?
Don't pay any attention to the New York Times review. The reviewer missed the mark. While I agree with the reviewer that the movie was slow paced, I disagree that it fails to maintain its promise by the end. This is a movie that is consistent and powerful to the end. We may not be satisfied with the result, but welcome to the ambiguities of life.
See this film!
Hannah Maynard (Kerry Fox) is a prosecutor at Hague's Tribunal for war
crimes. She's given the trial against a Serbian commander 3 years after
his arrest. The prosecution goes into a tail spin when the main
witness's testimony is found to be factually wrong. She's under
pressure and has to restart the investigation. She finds the witness's
sister Mira Arendt (Anamaria Marinca) to be the real witness. Everybody
is under threat. Mira had tried to start a new life in Germany.
Entrenched powers, political expediency and brutal thuggery threatens
to derail the truth.
Parts of this movie have great intensity but other parts get dragged down by the mechanics of the investigation and minutia of the trial. Kerry Fox is solidly in the lead while Anamaria Marinca provides the power. Other movies of its kind would provide constant flashbacks to inject the horror of war. This is a smaller undertaking but I think that the climax would be better served with a more powerful flashback reveal.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The movie has won two awards at the Berlin International Festival, one
at the Munich and the London Film Festivals and one at the Chicago
International Film Festival; Amnesty International award at the Berlin
International Festival was another it won at that festival, for its
probing subject depiction. A glance at the brief storyline gives you an
idea of the context of the story. The cast were complete unknowns to me
but clearly that is because I have a poor knowledge of rising European
actors (a work in progress); the actors delivered most convincing
This movie brings you inside the International Criminal Tribunal where you will discover the enormous challenges this organization has to overcome to fulfill its mandate, the utter frustrating obstacles the prosecutors, administrator, researchers, minders and others have to contend with on a regular basis and realize that the more passionate and dedicated prosecutors are, the more likely they are to find justice is an elusive ideal and a practically unrealistic hope they are best not to invest to much in. You will feel the same sad resignation to reality as that which the movie "The Whistleblower" mad me feel (see my review of same).
The main character in this movie, Hannah Maynard, played by Kerry Fox, is undermined at each of her attempts to make progress in the case of genocidal murderer, rapist and most despicable military commander she has been assigned to prosecute. A desperate victim of that commander's atrocities resorts to false testimony in a futile attempt to help the case before the tribunal and as a result, makes it all but impossible for Maynard to proceed when the defense attorney debunks the perjurer. Riddled with shame and despair the false witness kills himself. Maynard strong-minded sense of purpose manages to find a related real but reluctant witness (a rape victim herself); engaging that new witness to help, but too late to satisfy the court's protocols has now to deal with a new situation. She has placed that new witness and her family in harm's way and that family is 'revictimized '.In the end Maynard is betrayed by her husband, by the system she tried to serve and risks her career and future prospects by breaking the courts ordonnances just to allow the victim a chance to voice what the tribunal's process had denied her: telling the whole truth. The criminal walks away, the victim/witness' spirit is broken and so is Maynard.
I enjoyed the experience but the spoiler I just blurted above will not likely make you want to see the movie; sorry. If you still plan on watching it, you are a true movie enthusiast and just a bit of a masochist I think.
STORM works best as a legal thriller (I'm a criminal lawyer). Its
depictions of witnesses, evidentiary rules, discussions with opposing
counsel, etc., are done very well. STORM's acting, dialog, shooting and
direction are done professionally and convincingly; e.g., the film
never drags and, until the end, there's nothing that drags or takes one
"out of the film". The intertwining of the political influences is also
done well. It should be made clear that while the Balkans tragedy
serves as the vehicle for STORM, this is not a movie about those
horrors in particular; i.e., the same film may have made using a
Having said so much, STORM lacks passion. Its as if a talented group of people were tasked with making the movie, put in many hard days, then went back to pursuing what they truly loved. The lack of passion may result from STORM's lack of evil clearly depicted villains; i.e., stuff which arouses viewers. Indeed, hardly any background or time is given the Defendant in the docket for the entire film. The horrific scenes of the crimes involved are not seen but provided via the courtroom testimony. I understand that such may be precisely what the makers of STORM wanted to do; i.e., not be explicit to highlight the routine and tedium of legal work. If so, they succeeded. Maybe too well.
The inner workings of the European Union appear centre stage as Hans-
Christian Schmid (director and co-writer) shines his critical spotlight
upon an ostensibly expanding crevice of stark reality wedged between
true justice and political expediency.
The dialogue is well structured, while the script, which is occasionally laboured, gains credence by dealing with topical issues with an obvious knowledgeable insight. Yet, ironically, this is also the movies Achilles heel. Events and procedures are so close to the inner workings of a legal system governed by technicalities that Schmid occasionally abandons entertainment for frustrating boring reality. Points against the European Union are often well made, but, at times, lack balance, and his criticism is unconstructive in nature, yet he does soften slightly as the film approaches the credits, and so, in so doing, leaves his audience with the slimmest slither of hope.
Storm is a dark, thought provoking drama that, having the courage of its convictions, aims high only to fall short at the final hurdle. MG
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