Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

In he aftermath of the Balkan conflicts, UN prosecutor Hannah Maynard (Kerry Fox) attempts to bring an alleged war criminal to justice. But although she is certain he's guilty, there's something fishy about the testimony of her main witness, and the trial seems on the brink of collapse. If he is, as he claims, genuinely dedicated to justice, why does the witness seem to be lying? As she investigates, Maynard uncovers something still worse than the crime she first sought to prosecute, but she also learns that the court itself may be shaky in its commitment to justice.

This is a film that raises a lot of important issues. How far should we go to pursue justice over past crimes if, in so doing, we put long term peace in jeopardy? Who is the court really there to serve anyway? Is there a clear-cut case for seeing the UN as the good guys, or does that just depend on one's national perspective? And are certain crimes - especially crimes against women - considered less important than they should be?

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Unfortunately, the thriller in which these elements are interwoven is, for the most part, a routine piece of work. There are some very effective strategies applied in places (the opening scene of the suspect being arrested whilst on holiday with his family stands in for the ubiquitous fear of persecution during wartime; a thug's brief assault on the witness' sister helps us connect emotionally to the fear of sexual violence faced by women caught up in conflicts), but the overall sense of menace the film seems to be aiming for never quite works the way it should. Ironically, part of this is a result of Fox's solid performance in the lead. Though we might not always like her, we believe in her sufficiently that it's hard to imagine her really getting out of her depth.

The other strong performance in the film, and the one that really gives it something special, comes from Anamaria Marinca, who is fast proving to be one of the most capable young actresses in Europe. Playing the witness' sister, she manages to personify a number of competing agendas, yet conflicted as she is she never fails to be convincing. She also gives the film a vital emotional core.

This isn't quite the gripping film it should have been, but it is a wake-up call to many who have lost sight of what the Balkan conflicts meant, and of the human issues still at stake. For a lot of people it will provide a shocking insight into a system to whose workings they will have given little thought, and it certainly can't be faulted for a lack of things to say.

Reviewed on: 15 Feb 2010
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Legal drama about a prosecutor of war crimes given a 'cast iron case' but who finds her chief witness unreliable.
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Director: Hans-Christian Schmid

Writer: Bernd Lange, Hans-Christian Schmid

Starring: Kerry Fox, Anamaria Marinca, Stephen Dillane, Rolf Lassgård, Alexander Fehling, Tarik Filipovic, Kresimir Mikic, Steven Scharf, Joel Eisenblätter, Wine Dierickx, Reinout Bussemaker, Bent Mejding, Alexis Zegerman, Arturo Venegas, Drazen Kuhn

Year: 2009

Runtime: 110 minutes

Country: Germany, Denmark, Netherlands


Glasgow 2010

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