Saturday, May 21, 2011
The Europeans have been making smart, sleek, sexy thrillers that keep the stories more grounded in the real world than their American counterparts. The latest is "The Double Hour" (opened May 20 at Landmark's La Jolla Village Theaters) from Italy.
Euro thrillers like "With a Friend Like Harry," "Read My Lips," and "Tell No One" grip audiences with strong characters, smart writing, and tense pacing. They tend to avoid car chases, special effects, and wildly improbably plots. These films try to keep things real; we imagine these stories could possibly happen. The latest of these Euro thrillers to hit American theaters is "The Double Hour."
Samuel Goldwyn Films
"The Double Hour" opens with a quiet shocker. A maid named Sonia (Kseniya Rappoport) enters a hotel room to clean up. She exchanges a few words with the young female guest and then starts cleaning the bathroom. But then the guest abruptly jumps out the window and commits suicide. Sonia's calm reaction is just the first clue we get to her character. Next we see her at a speed dating event where she hooks up with a security guard named Guido (Filippo Timi). In no time he's inviting her over to the estate he watches over and while they are walking in the woods armed and masked burglars surprise them and clean out the mansion. And this is not even 30 minutes into the film and there's still a major twist that renders much of what came before moot... or does it? Nothing is quite as it appears in this fun and clever thriller.
First-time feature director Giuseppe Capotondi handles the twists and turns of the plot with an assurance that makes us feel that we are in capable hands. We never feel cheated or deceived by the plot turns but enjoy the ride. Part of the reason lies in the solid performances by Rappoport and Timi (who previously played a young Mussolini in "Vincere"). They make us care about these characters and their relationship so we have an emotional investment in the story and aren;t just trying to figure out the mysteries presented by the convoluted plot. It's the particular personalities of these characters that make the story more intriguing and compelling. Their relationship also raises questions about trust and the compromises one might make if you truly love someone. Rappoport's performance in particular is about peeling away layers of her character in a manner that reveals as many twists and turns as the plot.
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Capotondi also throws in a nice touch of having Guido have been a cop that specialized in wiretapping and using audio recordings to gather evidence on suspects. Audio becomes a key element in the film. Guido records the sounds of the woods surrounding the mansion, and those sounds seduce Sonia and remind her of a different time in her life. But it is Guido's microphones that first clue us in to the fact that burglars have broken into the house. Sound also plays another key role but I don't want to say anything more because it plays into the major twist that occurs.
"The Double Hour" (unrated and in Italian with English subtitles) is a satisfying romantic thriller. It spins a clever plot in which duality plays a key role and you are never sure who to trust.
Companion viewing: "Read My Lips," "Tell No One," "The Conversation"