Inhale (2010) Dir: Baltasar Kormákur. Unrated (contains strong violence and sexuality)
This film opens October 22nd in Los Angeles in selected theaters.
In this new thriller from Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur (The Sea), Santa Fe District Attorney Paul Chaney (Dermot Mulroney) and his wife Diane (Diane Kruger) has a daughter, Chloe, who is on a long list for a lung transplant due to a rare degenerative condition. As Chloe’s health worsens, Paul becomes desperate for a donor and foregoes the usual channels to seek out a mysterious surgeon named Dr. Novarro in Juarez, Mexico, who may be able to help her. Things get complex when he finds that Dr. Novarro may have connections to a criminal underworld.
The film starts off with a text on the screen about the increasing needs in the world for organ donors, similar in style of a documentary or a fact-based drama. We are soon introduced to Chloe, Paul and Diane’s daughter with severe lung problems, establishing the motivations of the parents. While I first expected something more akin to a medical drama, majority of the film is actually closer to a thriller. It is a decent, if conventional, thriller.
Majority of the film follows Paul (Dermot Mulroney) who goes off by himself to Mexico, searching for a “Dr. Novarro”, a surgeon who apparently has access in finding a donor for his daughter. Paul, a white, upper-class gentleman with graying hair, sorely sticks out in this new and unfriendly environment. He is soon mugged by thugs and taken advantage of by street kids for snooping around in the wrong area. Many of the thugs are typically two-dimensional. Paul eventually makes some headway by enlisting help from one of the kids. I found it surprising that a District Attorney couldn’t hire a language-friendly guide or bodyguards to get by in this type of environment, but I suppose that would make it less “edge-of-your-seat.”
Dermor Mulroney is competent as Paul, who is constantly in the worst of places. Majority of the people he bumps into are unfriendly. Strange, extreme situations follow this character around–actually, it’s more like he throws himself into these situations. Beyond that, his character is a fairly typical white collar character. Diane Kruger has a supporting role as Diane, Paul’s wife. After Inglourious Basterds, Diane Kruger has become even more recognizable. She is underused here, and is away from most of the action, looking concerned in much of the film. Rosanna Arquette also has a small role as Dr. Rubin, which isn’t developed. Most of the street characters in Mexico aren’t developed beyond the obvious.
The cinematography is well done. The film makes good use of its unfriendly, harsh environment with saturated colors and sharp contrasts, emphasizing the gritty, urban areas of Juarez, Mexico. The streets are filled with sharp greens, reds, and yellows. The thugs, the poor, and the children in the streets complete the whole mood. They are often more part of the environment than individuals. Many of them aren’t too friendly. I’m curious how Mexicans would view this film. The handheld camera shots, edits, and angles are all effectively done–the whole stylistic direction has a certain Tony Scott feel.
As for the story, it’s nothing too new, especially when it focuses on the events in Mexico. It works like a simple detective story–one clue leads to another. There are a good amount of violence and sexually explicit situations, many of which seem to exist purely for shock value than to further the theme or the plot. While the film regains its focus down the line, there are many things going on that seem sensational–shady politicians, conspiracies, and exploitation of the poor. Some parts were implausible, if well-intended, which took me away from the film. Overall, I did appreciate the theme of this film, which was driven home fairly effectively near the end. Still, I don’t think the film’s message was helped by all the clutter–clichés, shocks, and stylistic chases.
My Rating: ** 1/2 out of ****