In The Fade: Heart’s in the right place but brain’s MIA

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

In the Fade
Opens Feb. 9

Roxy Theatre
3 out of 5

The rise of violent white supremacist groups is a subject that’s reaching the screen with growing regularity. The threat, however, is more often than not treated broadly. While there’s no room for subtlety when you’re dealing with neo-Nazis, straight-up villainy isn’t all that interesting from a storytelling point of view. Particularly when its brains get lost under the brawn.

In the Fade falls into this trap. This German  drama starring Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds), depicts the racial tension between immigrants and locals using big, oafish strokes. It gets the point across but as a cinematic concoction it’s Michael Bay-esque.

Katja (Kruger) is married to a Kurdish immigrant with a checkered past. But they have a cute kid and seem to be a happy family. All that comes to an end when a dirty bomb goes off and kills the husband and son (not a spoiler, happens before the opening credits). A devastated Katja must endure a brutal investigation and even worse trial, in which the suspects — a couple of white supremacists — are supported by a network of alt-right extremists.

In case it’s not clear that Katja’s life has been destroyed by the event, scriptwriter/director Fatih Akin (Head-On) gives the character a drug problem and suicidal tendencies. Guess we can’t blame her: when a forensic pathologist gives a full description of the bomb’s effect on the little boy’s body you’ll want a drug problem, too.

I’ll give this to In the Fade: it’s fiercely intense and doesn’t let go. The main character is  a woman powered by anger who doesn’t develop magic sleuthing powers when things don’t go their way. She makes mistakes, but has no forgiveness in her heart and wants retaliation. Her grief is devouring her.

Kruger is superb as Katja, a role that doesn’t coast on her beauty. The humanity of her performance is the only thing that saves this film from being full-on exploitation.