Hugo Weaving stars in this Aussie drama that follows a man seized from his apartment by two men claiming to be police. They question him about a stolen car, but slowly it becomes clear that there's more to this interview than meets the eye.
When a police raid busts down Eddie Rodney Fleming’s (Hugo Weaving) door and arrests him for a stolen car, Fleming’s first reaction is to piss himself. Hardly the reaction of a street-hardened car thief. Also hardly the reaction, as the story unfolds, of a serial killer stalking the Australian outback, a predator stalking young students for the thrill of sport. But he may not be that either, as an excessively aggressive interrogator starts pulling contradictory stories loose.
Despite a brief flirtation with international fame following 1994’s The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Weaving had essentially returned to anonymity outside Australia by this movie’s release. His debut as a staple of high-dollar American science fiction wouldn’t come until the next year, with The Matrix. This relative obscurity limited Weaving to smaller paychecks, but it permitted him artistic liberty to pursue intellectually adventurous art-house fare like this.
Most of this movie takes place within the confines of one urban police station, mainly a single interview room. It has, somewhat, the conventions of a single-set play, with dialog-driven scenes, revelations driven primarily by claustrophobia, and no clear act divisions. The aptly named Detective Sergeant (Tony Martin) grills Fleming for hours, demanding information on crimes so grisly, Fleming visibly shrinks when asked about them. Steele rains down like God’s own vengeance.
Most of the movie turns on two questions: did he or didn’t he? And, do the ends justify the means? Fleming engages in surprisingly strategic horse-trades around his confessions. In exchange for a hot meal and dry shorts, he begins spilling details about crimes so gruesome that the tables turn, and Steele flees the room to regain his composure. But when Steele’s superiors ask follow-ups, Fleming insists his confessions were lies, calculated to end the humiliating interview.
Behind Fleming’s ambiguity, lies Steele’s. Fairly early on, as Steele sounds out Fleming, we discover somebody else is observing this interview. Apparently, Steele has a history of ethics violations, which his direct supervisors have overlooked because he gets results. But we watch Steele feed Fleming information, ask questions off the record, and directly threaten his suspect, all of which directly contravene Australian justice procedures. Steele is as rotten as the criminals he busts.
Writer-director Craig Monahan unabashedly plays with audiences’ loyalties. Fleming comes across initially as a shapeless nebbish: unemployed, divorced, living in a mold-stained flat with stacks of magazines and a pathetic goldfish. We wonder why Steele persecutes this poor sap so mercilessly. But Fleming’s confessions are too specific and detailed to have been invented spontaneously. Or are they? Even Steele realizes they’re contradictory and coincidence-driven. Who’s fooling who?
(An unused alternate ending, available on the DVD, sadly resolves this ambiguity. Skip it if you can.)
This movie is, essentially, an ongoing power struggle. DS Steele has the power to threaten, cajole, and coerce Fleming, confident he has the entire Australian justice system behind him. Falsely confident, as it happens. Fleming has only his stories to assuage the hot-tempered detective, but his words giveth, and his words taketh away. As Steele’s administrative support dwindles, Fleming manages to save his hide by playing both sides against one another.
Tony Martin, as Steele, is almost completely unknown outside Australia. He’s mainly done television and theatre at home, and hasn’t cultivated Weaving’s international audience base. That actually helps him with global audiences here: we have no baggage in seeing his performance. At times, he resembles Tim Roth or Harvey Keitel, actors whose characters are known for disregarding ethical norms in pursuit of their goals. Martin, as Steele, proves you can be right and still be wrong.
Monahan’s movie asks its audiences difficult questions about moral authority. Are people in power ever justified in lying to citizens who can’t fight back? Is it right to hang a suspect with rope he spun himself? When we have only verbal testimony, how can we be sure objective reality even exists? More important, this movie avoids the temptation to offer elementary solutions to these puzzles. To watch this film is to buy into its invitation to doubt the nature of reality.
This isn’t a crime movie. There’s no physical violence, no gunplay, no hard-bitten detective antics. Half police procedural, half psychological thriller, this movie forces audiences to adjust their rhythms to the pace presented, almost like a religious experience. Watching the movie, we, like Fleming, find ourselves transported to a world where words like “truth” and “time” have little meaning. And we return to our world changed by the experience.
I'm not even going to bother comparing this to "The Usual Suspects." This is not a hard-boiled movie like the aforementioned, but it does have moments of emotional release and stylized violence. Subtlety is the modus operandi in this film. Director Craig Monahan propels the cast toward a creepy conclusion that answers all lingering questions, yet leaves many avenues of debate open long after the film ends. I found "The Interview" to be a fascinating and insightful portrayal of flawed characters to whom I could relate in many cases. Hugo Weaving delivers some chilling work that Kevin Spacey could only dream of nailing with such believability. In addition to top-notch acting, the cinematography was also excellent. The variation in camera angles and film speeds was again subtle and masterful in its creation of a dark, unsteady environment. Ultimately, in my opinion, this is a movie that stays with you long after the credits roll at the end. I highly recommend it.
Okay, I lied about having seen the DVD, but I've seen it in the theater and I thought someone should get the ball rolling with a few thoughts about the movie itself. Hugo Weaving you will either remember from "Pricilla, Queen of the Desert" or "The Matrix" depending upon whether great cinematography and acting (in the first case) or expensive special effects and editing (in the second) opens your wallet at the local cineplex. Weaving gives an amazing, better-than-Oscar quality performance in this recent take on the police interrogation movie. In the opening scene his apartment is raided by some very aggressive police... gosh, if I tell you about it, it will lose all of its impact. Better not to tell. Suffice it to say that if you liked "Glengary GlenRoss", "The Trial", "Under Suspicion" and/or "The Usual Suspects", if you like to see an actor wrap himself around a role, and if you like a nice plot twist or two, buy this film. Twice.
It is probably only right that the process work both ways. American cinema gobbles up Australian talent, from Mel Gibson and Judy Davis to Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman, so it's fair play when Australian cinema imports elements familiar to the American crime film genre. "The Interview" stars Hugo Weaving, now known to American audiences as Agent Smith in "The Matrix" and Elrond in "The Lord of the Rings" films. The movie gets off to a jarring start, reminiscent of Franz Kafka's "The Trial", as Weaving's character Fleming is arrested, dragged into the police station, and questioned with no idea if he is being accused of something or what that crime might be. From there, the film borrows elements here and there from recent American crime movies like "Internal Affairs", "The Usual Suspects", "Seven", and "Presumed Innocent". The common thread linking these films is the omnipresent theme of "The Interview" - what is the truth and how far can or will a person go to find it. A workmanlike script benefits from a talented cast, headlined by Weaving but also complimented by Tony Martin as the lead interrogator, Aaron Jeffrey as hot-headed cop Prior, and Michael Caton as a savvy beat reporter. Although many American viewers might find "The Interview" a little too overly familiar in some spots, the solid script and the skilled acting make it a worthy and recommendable film. It's smart, and it handles its territory efficiently. One technical note - as of the day of this review, the technical details of the DVD do not list it as being widescreen. For all you widescreen fanatics like myself, take heart. The film is indeed widescreen, presented in its original aspect ratio. Enjoy.