Showing posts with label Sebastian Koch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sebastian Koch. Show all posts

Saturday, 16 February 2013

A Good Day to Die Hard

Twenty-five years since the beginning of the terrific Die Hard trilogy and nearly six years after the quite frankly terrible Die Hard 4.0 (you know, like computers) John McLane (Bruce Willis) is back for a fifth instalment of Dying Hard but not actually ever dying ever. As with a lot of tired, out of ideas sequels, Die Hard 5 takes place outside the US and finds our hero in MosCOW on the trail of his wayward son Jack (Jai Courtney) who he learns is due in a Russian Court on a murder charge. What John doesn’t realise however is that Jack is in fact a CIA Agent, working undercover to protect a political prisoner (Sebastian Koch) who has a highly sensitive file on a high ranking Russian Politician.

A Good Day to Die Hard tries its best to construct a story worthy of the original trilogy and even springs a surprise twist but nothing can mask that fact that this movie is boring. Dull, dull, stare, drive, BOOM!, guns, dull, talk, father-son, dull, driving, radiation, BOOM! BOOM! Hahaha, end. There is an incredibly tortured father-son relationship thing which gets dragged out for far too long and some stuff about Uranium but for the most part Die Hard 5 is just another run of the mill action shooter with far too much money to play with and not enough inventiveness.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Black Book

Paul Verhoeven’s tale of injustice, romance, duplicity and war is one of just a handful of films I’ve watched twice this year. I saw it first in early January and was blown away by the story and acting and jumped at the chance to watch it for a second time. Carice van Houten, best known to English speaking audiences as fiery Priestess Melisandre in Game of Thrones plays a young Jewish woman in hiding from the Nazis in the Dutch countryside towards the end of the Second World War. After her hiding place is destroyed and following a traumatic encounter with the Germans she joins the Dutch resistance, going undercover inside the German Headquarters in The Hague where she agrees to seduce the local commander (Sebastian Koch - The Lives of Others).

Black Book is a fantastic film which is full of moral ambiguity set in a time of deep mistrust and hardship. One of the greatest things about it is that very few characters can be described as good or bad. The vast majority of the large cast of characters lie in a grey area somewhere in between and I think this adds reality to the film. The film bravely suggests that not all Nazis were bad and that not every resistance fighter was good or moral. There is a great deal of anti-Semitism even amongst the so called good guys. It’s an interesting idea which works incredibly well and helps to keep the viewer on their toes.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Lives of Others

The Lives of Others is a fantastic thriller set in 1980’s East Germany. Stasi officer, Weisler (Ulrich Muhe) is ordered to spy on playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) by his superiors. Dreyman’s apartment is bugged and Weisler sits upstairs for hours on end, listening to everything that is said and done below him. Weisler soon discovers that the surveillance is down to one of his superiors infatuation with Dreyman’s girlfriend, the actress Christa Sieland, but nonetheless continues with his round the clock surveillance. Weisler, married to his job and with no life outside of it becomes intrigued by the lives of the artists who he is listening to, hearing literature and music which is completely new to him. He begins to suspect that the whole operation is an abuse of power and has to choose whether to continue to be honest in his accounts of what is going on in the apartment below him.

The film is acted with great aplomb. Muhe gives the standout performance however. He is mostly stoic and expressionless which makes the very occasional outbursts of emotion that much more unexpected. His performance reminds me most of Gary Oldman’s in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It is the merest movement of a lip or raising of an eyebrow that gives away his feelings and emotions and is a wonderful performance. Sebastian Koch is also very good, playing the playwright who is under observation and Ulrich Tukur and Thomas Thieme are both well cast as the archetypal villains of the piece, playing the roles of a senior Stasi officer and Government official respectably.  

The film’s great strength is its subtlety and the way the tension creeps up on the audience without being obvious. Again, I have to compare the film to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in this respect. There is little in the way of action but the audience are kept waiting, on the edge of their seats for the story to play out. It is masterful story telling that is wonderfully directed by von Donnersmarck.  

Additional – For a review of a tragi-comedy film featuring the same events click here.


Wednesday, 1 February 2012


Unknown is a smart and interesting psychological thriller set in modern day Berlin. It stars Liam Neeson as Dr. Martin Harris, who along with his wife arrives in Berlin for a Biotechnology summit. Things start to go wrong for Dr. Harris though when the taxi he is riding in plunges off a bridge and into a river. When he wakes up in hospital four days later he has trouble remembering what happened and worse still, his wife doesn’t recognise him and is with another Dr. Martin Harris.

The film follows Neeson on his quest to uncover the facts behind his memory loss and stolen identity. While Neeson does nothing out of the ordinary, he is suited to the role. (To see Neeson in his best role for a long time click here). Along the way Neeson is both helped and hindered by a fantastic, mostly European cast, including Diane Kruger, seen in Inglorious Basterds who is fantastic as the driver of Neeson’s ill fated taxi. Bruno Ganz, famous for playing Hitler in Downfall as well as countless YouTube parodies excels as an ex Stasi agent who helps Neeson uncover the truth. Sebastian Koch who was fantastic in Black Book and also appeared in the masterful The Lives of Others plays a Professor at the summit and he is joined by Karl Markovics from The Counterfeiters who here plays a well meaning doctor. Along with these fine European actors, Frank Langella joins the cast and the only weak link in the whole cast is January Jones of Mad Men fame who as far as I can tell must surely still be getting roles due to her looks as she is as wooden as ever here.

Another star of the film is Berlin itself which looks beautiful. Set in November, the film shows both Berlin’s famous sights as well as the grittier side which I personally love. The concrete buildings of East Berlin help to add to the coldness of the film and a car chase through snowy streets is a highlight.

The twist is not totally obvious and is left for the third act. When it does unfold it is welcomed and the whole plot falls into place. While the film is in no way perfect it is a decent thriller with enough action to go along with its fine acting. It is a far better film in my opinion than Neeson’s recent thriller Taken.