Film Review: "In The Fade" is two-thirds excellent, one-third disappointing
In The Fade is an important and sorrowful film - for the most part.
Katja, (played viscerally and harrowingly by Diane Kruger) is a reformed drug user turned suburban mother married to a Kurdish reformed drug seller turned tax advisor, Nuri (Numan Acar in a minor yet career distinguishing role). Together they live in perfect harmony and matrimony with their foul-mouthed yet kind gestured son, Rocco. When a crude bomb kills her reformed criminal husband and her six-year-old son, Katja seeks vengeance and justice against the brutal assailants. Katja’s quest for vengeance begins in court. But her sorrow quickly transforms into rage.
Strangely, what we have awaited the entire film – the third act in which Katja peaks in unrelenting rage and vengeance – is where the film falls apart.
In The Fade is at its strongest when the case is in court. Neo-Nazis are identified as the key suspects in the bombing, though they offer nothing more than silence and blank stares. The opaque, blinding white of the courtroom’s floors and walls is dizzying and intercut perfectly with rainy, lonesome German nights. The two wildly different settings produce an immersive and haunting atmosphere. The lack of any noticeable soundtrack for the majority of the film adds to the feeling of desolation and hatred.
Throughout the film, lingering shots and stark scenes of extreme violence shock the viewer in the best way possible. The violence is artistically rendered; with blood flowing through water and a visceral read-out of the autopsy reports lending themselves to some of In The Fade's most emotional sequences.
The film tackles racial prejudice and the justice system's failure fantastically. Katja’s husband, Nuri, is a German citizen of Kurdish descent, he is agnostic and a role model for reformed prisoners. Yet despite all this and his good behaviour after prison, the first immediate questions asked by police and family in response to the bombing are little more than interrogations: ‘Did he have enemies?’, ‘Was this a revenge attack?’, ‘Was he religiously or politically motivated?’, ‘Did he have ties to the mafia or terrorist organizations?’. It seems impossible that an innocent man of Middle Eastern descent could be the victim.
Background characters are well utilized. The secret victims of the bombing are portrayed with heartbreaking realism, a guilt-ridden father of one of the assailants offers his condolences to Katja in a heartbreaking sequence. Katja’s immediate and extended family feel the ever-growing separation due to the gap in their bloodline. Friends who are beginning parenthood juxtapose what Katja has lost, as she attempts to live vicariously through their joy of motherhood and matrimony.
The script is powerful, awakening, and punishing in its finest moments, complemented by rich characters and excellent performances that elevate the film above the average thriller - for the most part.
However, much like an explosion, once the bang goes off there is silence, and when the film reaches its tipping point, it never reaches that height again. Whereas the first two-thirds of the film was a bitter and sobering look at the justice system and prejudice, the final third fails to capitalise on that good work; and instead tosses it aside for a gimmicky espionage thriller that feels forced, rushed, and unnecessary.
It is an ending that could have been done right, and be equal to the thoughtfulness and artistry of the rest of the film. Yet the overly ambitious and unnecessary set piece holds this good film back from being great.