Diane Kruger

Wicker Park (2004, Paul McGuigan)

Wicker Park is a psychological drama, not thriller. While director McGuigan occasionally uses thriller-like foreshadowing or ominous sections, Park never forecasts its narrative. Protagonist Josh Hartnett skips an important business trip to China to search for an ex-girlfriend, but he does it all where he lives. The film takes place over three or four days in Chicago, where Hartnett lives, yet he’s outside his regular life.

He’s hanging out with Matthew Lillard, a friend he hasn’t seen in years, and pretending to his current girlfriend he’s in China. There are multiple flashbacks explaining the ex-girlfriend (played by Diane Kruger). McGuigan and editor Andrew Hulme use generic transitions between past and present, but between the acting and Cliff Martinez’s score, Park never feels quite in one time or another. It’s never confusing to the narrative, it’s just always clear Hartnett’s character is existing contemporaneously in both times.

Most of the acting’s excellent–Rose Byrne is fantastic, Hartnett’s great. Lillard’s good, even though his character’s dreadfully underwritten. Except in a film with four principals and almost no supporting cast, a weak link hurts.

Kruger is awful. She’s incapable of affect or personality. Her performance severely hurts Park.

McGuigan seems to realize it, because the finish makes up for Kruger with nothing more than music and editing and placement of actors. McGuigan always keeps the film objective, which helps with that timelessness. It also means he can sell a wholly artificial ending on nothing but technical quality.

And he does.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Paul McGuigan; screenplay by Brandon Boyce, based on a screenplay by Gilles Mimouni; director of photography, Peter Sova; edited by Andrew Hulme; music by Cliff Martinez; production designer, Richard Bridgland; produced by Andre Lamal, Marcus Viscidi, Gary Lucchesi and Tom Rosenberg; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Josh Hartnett (Matthew), Rose Byrne (Alex), Matthew Lillard (Luke), Diane Kruger (Lisa), Christopher Cousins (Daniel), Ted Whittall (Walter) and Jessica Paré (Rebecca).


Unknown (2011, Jaume Collet-Serra)

Unknown is not a bad continental thriller. Liam Neeson is an American scientist in Berlin who wakes from a coma to find no one remembers him. As often happens in these situations, he finds himself a pretty sidekick (Diane Kruger) and a sympathetic native (Bruno Ganz) who try to help him unravel the mystery.

The film benefits a great deal from John Ottman and Alexander Rudd’s score, Flavio Martínez Labiano’s photography and the Berlin locations. Director Collet-Serra only has a handful of bad sequences—he likes the CG-aided slow motion a little too much—but he’s otherwise a perfectly mediocre thriller director.

Having Neeson for a lead helps too. He’s able to bring an air of respectability to the project, which would otherwise feel a little too pedestrian otherwise. January Jones—as his forgetting wife—doesn’t bring much substance too her performance and Aidan Quinn—as Neeson’s replacement—looks a little lost. Quinn gets this bewildered look from time to time, like he can’t believe he’s in this kind of picture. Neeson—who’s been doing these genre pieces for over a decade now—looks a lot more comfortable. Though it does occasionally seem like a thematic sequel to Darkman, which isn’t so much bad as unintentionally amusing.

There are twists, there are turns. There’s an ornate car chase (with unnecessary CG). The finale isn’t exactly predictable, but I’ve seen it before….

Unknown’s a diverting couple hours; Neeson and Kruger (oddly, a German playing a Bosnian) make it worthwhile.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra; screenplay by Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell, based on a novel by Didier Van Cauwelaert; director of photography, Flavio Martínez Labiano; edited by Timothy Alverson; music by John Ottman and Alexander Rudd; production designer, Richard Bridgland; produced by Leonard Goldberg, Andrew Rona and Joel Silver; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Liam Neeson (Dr. Martin Harris), Diane Kruger (Gina), January Jones (Elizabeth Harris), Aidan Quinn (Martin B), Bruno Ganz (Ernst Jürgen), Frank Langella (Rodney Cole), Sebastian Koch (Professor Leo Bressler), Olivier Schneider (Smith), Stipe Erceg (Jones), Rainer Bock (Herr Strauss), Mido Hamada (Prince Shada), Clint Dyer (Biko), Karl Markovics (Dr. Farge) and Eva Löbau (Nurse Gretchen Erfurt).


Inglourious Basterds (2009, Quentin Tarantino)

Tarantino will probably never make a film as good as the good parts of Inglorious Basterds again. Possibly because the good parts of the film–even with the Sam Jackson narration–seem so unlike Tarantino, it’s impossible to imagine him making them. It’s like, all of a sudden, an adult magically appeared and took his place. Unfortunately, the real Tarantino returns for the last twenty or so minutes, when Basterds collapses.

But I’m going to try to talk about the good things. The Tarantino conversation scene is nearly twenty years old. It’s never been used as well as it is in Basterds. The film opens with one, an unbelievably affecting scene (with a lot, in the end, owed the Searchers). It’s like Tarantino finally learned his “chapters” work better as real time vignettes, instead of jumbles of location shooting and stunt casting.

Besides his excellent writing–since it’s mostly non-English, Tarantino doesn’t bother going for cool sounding dialogue–Basterds succeeds because of Mélanie Laurent and Christoph Waltz. The rest of the cast doesn’t really matter (they’re all great, except Eli Roth, who went to the Quentin Tarantino school of lousy acting). The great film inside Basterds is about Laurent. The silly one Tarantino delivers is, unfortunately, not.

He does some really stupid stuff at the end, the kind of nonsense one would do if he didn’t want to make a real movie, but a joke.

It’s a shame Tarantino keeps growing as a director, but never as a filmmaker.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino; director of photography, Robert Richardson; edited by Sally Menke; production designer, David Wasco; produced by Lawrence Bender; released by the Weinstein Company and Universal Pictures.

Starring Brad Pitt (Lt. Aldo Raine), Christoph Waltz (Col. Hans Landa), Eli Roth (Sgt. Donny Donowitz), Michael Fassbender (Lt. Archie Hicox), Diane Kruger (Bridget von Hammersmark), Daniel Brühl (Fredrick Zoller), Mélanie Laurent (Shosanna Dreyfus), Denis Menochet (Perrier LaPadite), Sylvester Groth (Joseph Goebbels), Mike Myers (Gen. Ed Fenech) and Rod Taylor (Winston Churchill).


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