Friday, July 6, 2007

SOUNDLESS (2004) Movie Review

Viktor is a perfectionist hitman, who is on his current job. After killing his target, he sees a young woman sleeping in the target's bed. Viktor becomes instantly smitten with her, and uses his skills as an assassin to watch and learn about her. When the young woman tries to kill herself, he saves her from drowning. Viktor and the woman, Nina, begin to see each other, and though Viktor believes he has found a way to win his soul back, and find happiness in retirement with her, he is hesitant to divulge too much. Meanwhile, an obsessive and expert profiler named Lang has been assigned to track down Viktor, and as Viktor's last target was an undercover officer, Lang becomes increasingly bent on discovering his identity.

From THIS GUN FOR HIRE to LE SAMOURAI, from THE KILLER to LEON, and even GROSSE POINTE BLANK, women offer a way for professional killers to find redemption for their criminal action, and that by saving their new found "love", they can in essence save themselves. German director Mennan Yapo, who came up with the story for SOUNDLESS, continues that thematic arc here, with assistance from the team behind THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR to give the story a soft and personal edge.

Yapo who makes his feature-length directorial debut here, opts not for wild shoot 'em up set pieces here, but instead a precise and calculating patience on both the parts of Viktor and Lang. He takes a slow and detailed look at the methods and time devoted to both Viktor's accumulation of information on his targets, and then waiting for that perfect and clean shot. Lang spends just as much time using his expertise to whittle down a list of potential killers that Viktor could be, before choosing the only man who could possibly be the man he is looking for, and concentrating solely on that individual. It is these laborious scenes that provide a key look at the make up of each man. Such scenes would most likely become cutting room fodder in an American version, but here they are the engaging scenes that make the film so interesting.

Joachim Krol, who takes on the role of Viktor, has just the right screen presence for this non-descript assassin. Krol, who normally is cast as next door neighbor types or in comedy, uses these roles to his advantage. He does not operate like your typical Hollywood assassin. He blends right into the crowd, moving steadily, confidently, and silently, much like Jef Costello. Nadja Uhl, who plays Nina, while quite beautiful, does not seem unapproachable or even unreal. Yapo goes to great lengths to make sure she seems like a real person, fragile and unsure of herself. It is this vulnerability that allows her character to remain grounded in reality. And though there are several key plot devices to move along their relationship, Viktor and Nina never seem forced in their growing connection. They are merely two people unsure if they can love, or even deserve to be loved.

During few tense action sequences, Yapo keeps the film at mid-tempo, and firmly based in a proper and procedure following reality. This is perfectly exemplified in the final showdown, as the cool as ice SEK (German SWAT) stick to trained tactics to keep control of the situation, and never reduce themselves to cannon fodder.

Yapo and company have set up an introspective tale of an assassin on the verge of retirement and a cop out to catch him. And though Viktor may be the protagonist of the tale, as we follow around, but Lang easily avoids the pitfalls of the classic antagonists. He is just doing his job, with no secret ties to Viktor or grudges to settle or personal vendetta to get him. He is simply a cop, and a very good one at that, doing his job. And that is what makes this film work in the way that Yapo wants it to - these are just characters doing their job. No more, and no less.


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