In the midst of editing and posting video footage for this blog, somehow this weekend there was still time to catch two movies. Both were very good although in very different ways.
The Alibi (Also known as “Lies and Alibis”)
This US-made film is, oddly, being released internationally before its US release, supposedly to build momentum. Starring Steve Coogan (“Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story”) and Rebecca Romijn (X Men series), it needs no added momentum, but with a plot that is tough to describe in a single sentence (think “The Usual Suspects”) it may have to work a bit harder to find its audience.
Ray Elliot (Coogan) is a former con man, now running a consultancy that supplies alibis for philandering clients. When he agrees to provide an alibi for a major client’s soon-to-be-married son, he and the son switch identities for the weekend. Unfortunately for Ray, the son accidentally kills his girlfriend during some “role play turned rough.”
Not only does Ray have to scramble to clear his name, he also has to deal with the hit man hired by his client, the murdered girl’s jealous boyfriend (John Leguizamo), and a mysterious crime figure known as The Mormon (Sam Elliot) who coerces Ray to work for him in order to catch Ray’s former boss, the mysterious and elusive Jack, on whose head an Arabian sultan has placed a $5 million price tag.
To extricate himself from these circumstances, Ray goes against his better instincts and starts to rely upon Lola (Romijn), a newly hired employee for whom he is starting to rethink his cynical opinion about love.
The film has a noir-ish look and feel and Coogan is as calm and collected as Cary Grant while the plot twists and turns and characters cross and double-cross each other. It leaves you guessing until the very end and is an enjoyable ride.
The Last Days of Sophie Scholl
The second film of the weekend was much heavier material. Based on recently-uncovered historical documents and interviews with witnesses, relatives, and friends, this docu-drama tells the story of the final six days of the live of Sophie Scholl, a student member of the White Rose resistance against the Nazi regime. In February 1943, Sophie (played by the brilliant Julia Jentsch) and her brother (Fabian Hinrichs) were arrested for distributing anti-Nazi leaflets at Munich University.
Over the next few days she initially denies any involvement, sparring with the Gestapo interrogator (Alexander Held) and nearly winning her release. Damning evidence is found in their apartment and, after reading her brother’s signed confession, she proudly admits her own part in the resistance.
The really amazing part of the film comes in the two days of interrogation in which she and the Gestapo officer debate the means and ideals of the Nazi government. For his part, the officer is interested in the letter of the law with no regard to who wrote it. But in his eyes for just a brief second, you can sense a glimmer of doubt in his convictions. The officer offers Sophie a chance to spare her life by renouncing her ideals, which she refuses. More amazing, these scenes are based on the actual transcripts of her interrogation, found in East Germany.
The director, Marc Rothemund, does a fantastic job of stripping away the barriers and making a film in which the actors are laid bare; their performance are all the film needs. As most of the film takes place in the interrogation rooms, it is a static film. But, as the Hollywood Reporter noted, “the static is filled with electricity.”
The film has come and gone most everywhere in the world, but if you have not yet seen it, I would encourage you to rent it. It is an amazingly-acted story of conviction and courage, the important type of film that causes us to ask ourselves, for which beliefs would we exhibit similar courage.