Yeah, don’t go to Germany. For many reasons.
Clare (Teresa Palmer) is just a young photographer who travels out to Germany to see what she can shoot. She obviously gets wrapped-up in the night life, as well as the fellow young and happenin’ artists just like her, including schoolteacher Andi (Max Riemelt). The two hit it off and of course, they spend the night together, making all sorts of sex. But then, the next day comes around and Clare realizes that Andi doesn’t want her to go. Like, anywhere. And now, for no reason, Clare is held prisoner in a large apartment-complex, that has been seemingly abandoned and without a single sight of another human found anywhere in the nearest vicinity. Is she ever going to be able to get out alive? Better yet, what is she going to have to do to get out?
As usual with kidnapping thrillers, the Berlin Syndrome is a depressing movie. But there’s something interesting about its depression that makes it worth watching, even in its saddest and perhaps most deepest moments of despair. Most of that comes through the way the movie is filmed to almost make it seem like a dream – the ugliest, scariest, and most disturbing of dreams – but also, because of Teresa Palmer in the lead role who, after quite some time, hasn’t been this good in a while.
Like, a real long while.
And yes, I blame Hollywood.
See, the thing about Palmer is that, despite her being awfully good-looking, she’s also a compelling presence on the screen; she’s a strong, tough, and very smart woman who seems like she knows what she’s doing, in just about every movie. Of course, every movie that she shows up in, whether small or big, never seems to really take this into consideration and instead, she’s stuck with the conventional role of being the hot-chick and love-interest of whatever male protagonist she’s opposite of. It’s a shame to see her get this role, time and time again, but once again, it seems like that’s the way Hollywood operates: Take the smartest, brightest and most beautiful talent there is, and watch them as they make their way through awful roles.
That said, Palmer is quite great here because as Clare, every step of the way, we’re with her. We feel her pain, her agony, her anguish, her insanity, and oh yeah, her perseverance in, hopefully, one day getting out in the big, bright world. Sure, she does a lot of yelling and hollering, but really, it’s all in the look of her eyes and the way she carries herself from scene-to-scene that makes her so compelling to watch, even when it seems like her character, nor this plot, are ever going to get anywhere.
She’s the absolute reason why the Berlin Syndrome works as well as it does, because without her, it would be nothing more than just another creepy, off-putting kidnapping thriller.
Which, of course, it is. But it isn’t an awfully surprising one, really. There’s some suspense and intensity to be had throughout the proceedings, but once you get past the lead characters, there’s not much to really grasp at. The villain of the film, while getting the chance to shed some humanity in between all of the raping and other disturbing acts of depravity, doesn’t have much more to him than, well, daddy issues. Or mommy issues, I think. Either way, the dude’s got issues and while it’s admirable that the movie attempts to have us see him more than just a cold-hearted asshole, he still is, no doubt, a cold-hearted asshole. Why we get so much of his backstory and so very little of Clare’s, is a bit odd.
But hey, at least Palmer gets the chance to shine. That’s all that matters, in the end.
Consensus: As is the case with kidnapping thrillers, the Berlin Syndrome follows a conventional formula, but does benefit from giving Teresa Palmer a solid role to work with and make worth watching.
6 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Vertical Entertainment