Movie review: 'In the Fade'

Brad Keefe

This is the time of season for Oscar completists to see as many nominees as they can, but one film opening this week in Columbus is a notable exception.

“In the Fade” was Germany's entry this year in the Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film, where nations choose their official entry for consideration.

With a timely theme and fresh off a Golden Globe win, “In the Fade” was instead one of the more surprising snubs when the nominations were announced … not that there was a whole lot of unexpectedness that morning.

It's a challenging and worthwhile watch, although it's also easy to see where the film misses.

Katja (Diane Kruger) lives in Hamburg with her husband, Nuri (Numan Acar). Nuri has a criminal past that's well behind him, and the couple lives a happy and loving life with its young son.

With intimate home movie footage, Katja's idyllic life is quickly laid out for the audience. Then it's just as quickly shattered.

She arrives home one day to discover her home is surrounded by police. There's been an explosion. Her husband and son are dead.

The film unfolds in three very distinct acts, as director and co-writer Fatih Akin explores grief against a backdrop of terrorism, as the suspects in the bombing are revealed to be anti-immigrant neo-Nazis.

It's hard not to appreciate how timely neo-Nazis feel as villains, but it's also sobering seeing how they seem more marginalized in the land that first gave rise to Hitler.

The sharp three-act structure brings good and bad. It's a delicate balancing act to make film like this not feel uneven. The first two acts will feel like “Law & Order” … and I won't spoil where the third act goes.

The result will probably feel a bit lopsided. Although different audiences will gravitate to different segments, it's hard to imagine that many would find the entire film consistently and equally compelling. It's a fine idea, but not one without its pitfalls.

The upside of these three acts is that this is an absolute showcase for Diane Kruger as an actress. She's heartbreaking and fierce and gives a wide-ranging performance that won her accolades at Cannes.

If the overall film is uneven, her performance alone makes “In the Fade” worth checking out, Oscar or not.

“In the Fade”

Opens Friday

3 stars out of 5