Armin Mueller-Stahl plays Hungarian family man Mike Laszlo, whose American citizenship is suddenly threatened when reports unearthed from a UN basement link him to horrific war crimes as part of an SS Death Squad.

He immediately turns to his daughter, defense lawyer Ann Talbot (Jessica Lange) who dismisses the charge, assuming it to be a simple case of mistaken identity. When the case progresses quickly to court, Ann goes against the advice of her peers and represents her father to defend him against the onslaught of allegations thrown at him by the prosecution (Frederic Forrest). As the case progresses, more and more of Mike's past is opened up and we, as an audience, share Ann's growing doubts of exactly what it was her father did in the Hungarian Army.

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Its not until the lack of definitive evidence puts her father in the clear, that Ann discovers the truth she has been hiding from as both a lawyer and a daughter.

In a film brimming with strong performances (Mueller-Stahl, Forrest and Rooker are all excellent), it's the incredible Jessica Lange who is key to its success. Her ability to take the audience with her on Ann's emotional journey is a tribute to the actor's natural talent to convey strength, vulnerability and utter heart break with such apparent ease.

Director Costa-Gavras (here re-teaming with Betrayed screenwriter Joe Eszterhas) has, thankfully, allowed his actors to carry the film and resisted the temptation to get too energetic with his camera. Despite some heavy political undertones and the unsettling idea that someone you love is capable of unspeakable evil, Gavras manages to keep the simple theme of family very much in the foreground. It's in the relationships between Mike Laszlo, Ann and her son (played by an impressive Lukas Haas) that the impact of the case is truly felt.

Music Box is a non-flashy, intelligent piece of adult film-making which offers a purely character-driven story and packs a powerful emotional punch.

Reviewed on: 26 Dec 2005
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Music Box packshot
When her Hungarian father is accused of war crimes, a strong willed lawyer must defend his honour and discover his past.
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Director: Costa-Gavras

Writer: Joe Eszterhas

Starring: Jessica Lange, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Frederic Forrest, Donald Moffat, Lukas Haas, Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Mari Törõcsik

Year: 1989

Runtime: 124 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: USA


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