Year:  2019

Director:  Regis Roinsard

Rated:  M

Release:  September 17, 2020

Distributor: Palace

Running time: 105 minutes

Worth: $12.00
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Lambert Wilson, Olga Kurylenko, Riccardo Scamarcio, Sidse Babett Knudsen

The premise is admittedly an unusual one, but it doesn’t exactly thrill.

Supposedly you can make a thriller out of almost any situation, but that does not, in itself, make a film thrilling. Director Regis Roinsard’s story of literary shenanigans suffers from this conundrum. The premise is admittedly an unusual one, but it doesn’t exactly thrill.

There is an author whose crime novels are so successful that he is virtually bankrolling his whole publishing house. At the beginning of the film, Eric (Lambert Wilson) – a spokesperson for the company – announces to the press that the new book in the best-selling trilogy is about to be released. The secretive author has done his best to ensure that no more than ten pages from the precious novel are leaked online in advance. Thus, the first ten pages of the book becomes the McGuffin that all involved prize so highly.

The book is going to be simultaneously released in various languages, and Eric gets nine eponymous translators to submit to his rather odd conditions of work. He locks them all in a concrete bunker, which is guarded (for no clearly explained reason) by Russian gangster heavies who impose brutal beatings if required. The translators then have to set to their task under the strict instructions that nothing must leave the room. Once in the situation, the translators set about subverting the Author and Publisher’s plan.

The film has a reasonable cast. Lambert Wilson is a well-known character actor in France. Here, he does his best to convey the icy ruthlessness that is demanded of him, but it isn’t a very meaty part. Then there are various characters and their subplots inserted in the hope of sustaining our interest. Prominent among them, is a glamourous woman called Katerina, played by ‘bond girl’ Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace), who uses her charms to try and seduce her captor. Then there is Alex (rising British actor Alex Lawther). He looks too young to be part of the team, but he turns out to have some aces up his sleeve.

The film relies upon some heist movie elements, complete with elaborate and implausible trickery, which is then explained in retrospect. This is a trope familiar from such films as Now You See Me and that element will have its fans. The main problem for the film though is to really draw us into its world. Book translation does not lend itself that readily to cloak and dagger machinations. No doubt the concept seemed like a good idea in the script conferences but when put on the screen, something, er, got lost in translation.


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