by Jason Morrison
After watching American Beauty and Kevin Spacey grab Oscars Sunday night, I was reminded of the Spacey's first Oscar, for his performance as Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects. But with its suburban satire and artistic sensibilities Beauty is far from Suspects and its dark, challenging crime story. Suspects, in fact, had a lot more in common with the film I saw Monday night at The Strand, The Interview.
Interview, an Australian film, swept through the 1998 Australian Film Institute awards winning three out of nine nominated categories. Not surprisingly, it didn't even show up on the Oscar radar. This brings up an interesting point-the Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film category is pretty good at nominating films foreign critics have loved, but if a film is made in Britain or Australia it would have to pull a Life is Beautiful-esque miracle to end up with an Oscar nomination.
Enough about the Oscars-though I have to mention quickly that Phil Collins' win for best song was sickening. Phil Collins' music, good or bad, does not sound appropriate in the jungle, as Tarzan made us painfully aware.
The Interview centers almost entirely on the police interview of Eddie Fleming (Hugo Weaving), an out-of-work divorced man with few friends. He's apprehended in his apartment at five in the morning for reasons that aren't made clear to him. The police cuff him and trash his place, barely stopping to identify themselves. He's then taken to the station and deposited in a dark room where most of the film is set.
Detective Sergeant John Steele (Tony Martin) tells Eddie that this is all part of a police inquiry into a stole vehicle. He assures Eddie that he is only here to answer some questions, but it's soon clear that the detective has already made his decision. Eddie claims to have no knowledge of that car or the missing driver, Beecroft, but the detective says his and his handwriting matches a forged lease. Eddie asks for something to eat and the detective blows it off. Finally, Eddie asks for a lawyer.
Eddie isn't the only one in the building under pressure. Steele himself is being pressed for results in this stolen car case which is only the tip of a series of murders and is at the same time being watched for signs of abusing suspects. He has his men searching every last scrap of paper in Eddie's apartment, even the newspapers, trying to place him with Beecroft. He even clashes with his assistant, Wayne Prior (Aaron
Jeffrey), who thinks Eddie needs more pushing than talking.
Eddie's lawyer tells him to say no comment, but he begins to figure out the cops' game. He begins to conveniently remember exactly what Steel wants to hear-the two cops are flabbergasted-and manages to get some breakfast finally. He weaves a story of totally unmotivated murder, of killing without feeling, and the cops are hooked on every word-but is he telling the truth?
The Interview is almost as hard to sit through for the audience as it is for Eddie. The room is dark and claustrophobic and the few breaks we get following Steele through the police offices are directed to feel like a trap. Eddie's position, stuck in a situation he doesn't seem to understand, begins to feel like your own-his constant requests for something to eat had me hungry as well. The interviewer's attacks, sometimes incredibly subtle, and attempts to catch Eddie's logic were both ingenious and completely unfair. This movie kept me rapt, wanting to see what was going to happen next, though uncomfortable at what the next question might be.
The best part is when Eddie begins describing the murder. Had this film stayed the course t was going, it would have become unbearable and less interesting. But as Eddie turns the tables on the detective, he also changes the focus of the movie. It's no longer how will he get out, but what is the truth, and who will win the battle-Eddie or Steele.
Weaving manages to take Eddie from lonely, innocent bystander way over his head to cold-blooded murderer to Verbal Kint-style strategist without breaking the character. It's interesting to note that he played the evil computer program that interrogated Laurence Fishburne and fought Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. I couldn't get over his demeanor in that movie, and now it's clear this actor excels on both sides of the interrogation.
Martin's detective is a master of his game, which makes him downright infuriating. He has been through so many levels of interrogation that he no longer uses the brute intimidation Prior would use, but is also no longer interested in finding the truth-he is interested in breaking Eddie down. It's interesting to see how he handles his own interview for improper interrogation practices near the end, as well.
The Interview seems much longer than it is, and seems set on making the viewer feel he's one of the accused. But this does more to draw you in to the story than push you out the door and the ultimate ambiguity of the film makes it hard to stop thinking about afterward.
(Out of five)