It’s the late stages of World War II and the Axis powers are scrambling for anything that would give them a decided edge. The power of the atom would suit them nicely, and a German scientist named Emil has discovered the way to harness said power far ahead of the Allies. Being privy to such information during wartime could certainly paint a target on such a person’s back.
Enter Simone, an Allied spy tasked with finding her former colleague and flame, Emil, to make quite certain he takes his knowledge to the grave. Granted, this is information that Allied forces could also use to their advantage, but with Emile behind enemy lines, it’s a risk they can’t bet on. Especially, with a contingent of Nazi soldiers, accompanied by a fellow German scientist named König, diligently trying to track Emile down so that they can extract his secret for their own benefit.
Being a man of great scruples, Emil decides to make tracks and boards a train bound for Switzerland, in order to make his way to freedom and keep his knowledge from falling into the wrong hands. This just so happens to be where both Simone and König will eventually catch up to him. But what neither of them realized is that Emil has already created a prototype of this game changing weapon. It becomes certain that the extraction of any secret information from Emil or liquidating him will be moot if the device does that for which it’s intended before it’s found
Olivier Asselin was in the director’s chair for The Cyclotron, which he also wrote with Lucille Fluet, who also stars in the film as Simone. This pair of writers have created a real throwback thriller full of elements old style noir and espionage elements quite similar to those in films like Night Train to Munich, The Third Man and Notorious. They’ve even thrown in a little sentimental dose of romance to boot. It’s a slow burner that allows the story to develop well, despite the fact that it’s little long winded in the final stretch. There’s also a touch of non-linearity as the stories sequence of ending events are laced throughout the film, starting at…well the beginning of the film. I also loved the fact that the filmmakers didn’t try to bandy about with specious scientific jargon just to give the characters the illusion of scientific expertise. Specifically, the intelligent explanation of the oft over simplified theory about Schrödinger’s Cat and Quantum Superposition.
With respect to the acting Mark Antony Krupa (Emil), Lucille Fluet (Simone), Paul Ahmarani (König) were not only good in their portrayals, but were also quite believable in their character types. Krupa and Fluet were also able to effectively introduce a degree of romance into the fray. Although, having studied German, I found the way some of the German dialogue was spoken as being similar to the vocals I had previously heard on instructional tapes in the high school language lab – slow and wooden. And of course I must make mention of the fact that this film is subtitled, because I know some viewers are absolutely terrified to “read a movie”. Frankly, I love subtitled films, so I DON’T sympathize.
The use of black and white lent this film the shadowy and contrasty appearance of 40’s and 50’s noir and espionage films. One could go so far as to say there is even a touch of German Expressionism thrown into the mix. There was also a juxtaposition of scenes shot in c9lor to represent what is (respective to the time period) going on, while those in black and white indicated past events. Visual effects, though present, weren’t grandiose and overdone, and would have been distracting and jarring had they been.
Recently I’ve noticed that some filmmakers have been creating movies that revisit thematic and stylistic elements of earlier film eras like the 30′, 40’s and 50’s…and I love that. It shows a great deal of respect to those who pioneered forth to advance the art to where it is at present. Also, some of the filmmakers have shown the ability to make low tech sci-fi features that are still entertaining, despite a glaring lack of the glossy and shiny technology that audiences have become accustomed to. And while it may not appeal to some audiences, who may be to deeply dug in on effects driven fare, those who are more open and have more eclectic tastes should appreciate it. Well done Mr. Asselin 7 / 10