Eye For Film >> Movies >> Damascus Cover (2017) Film Review
Reviewed by: Emilia Rolewicz
Damascus Cover begins by uncovering our protagonist’s identity, or two of them. Born in Israel as Ari Ben-Sion, he doubles up in Germany as a spy, Hans Hoffman (Jonathan Rhys Meyers); he prefers the latter. The Berlin Wall has just fallen but Hans leaves this new era for a mission in the Middle East to smuggle out a chemical weapons scientist.
Daniel Zelk Berk’s feature has all the essential ingredients of a political thriller - a moody grey-blue filter, a tingling, foreboding score and people throwing back whiskies while staring drearily into space. Damascus Cover also doesn’t forget to phone in Hans’ backstory of a deceased son, which leaves him guilt-glazed the entire time. Unfortunately, this attempt to add dimension to his character leaves his emotionless tone seeming even more flat, leading to a passable yet uncharismatic performance from Meyers.
Throughout his stay in Syria, photos are taken of Hans by an anonymous source, and he also happens to connect with a photo-journalist, named Kim (Olivia Thirlby), with whom he inevitably strikes up a romance. These voyeuristic images of Hans, as well as recurring omniscient bird’s eye view shots, cleverly create a conspiratorial aura of something larger happening. As Kim prophesises: “If the wall fell anything is possible.” Damascus Cover may have been set during the time post-Berlin-Wall-fall but it shows a more significant snapshot of how countries intertwine underneath it all, in a way which is secret even to Hans. The film probes this in ways which are mainly tired with overdone gestures such as, “Think of the children”, translating to, “Think of the future”. Most significantly, Damascus Cover makes one wonder why, in a film where duos or trios of Germans converse at many different points, the only actual German they exchange is, “Guten abend”, after which they proceed to speak entirely in English with softly robotic European accents.
As John Hurt’s last performance, the role of Hans’ Germany based boss is an inoffensive one. He occasionally appears on the phone to Hans, reminding him of his mission and unfortunately staying far from the actual action. Only John Hurt could make sitting down in a chair and casually phone calling about the chemical weapons scientist more exciting than actually watching Rhys Meyers run around with a gun in the desert trying to rescue him. Zelik Berk's quest to show Hans and his problems as small players in an international political game, unfortunately mirrors this idea, as you are left feeling it is only a polite blip in the ocean of its genre.Reviewed on: 30 Jul 2018
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