Soundless (2004)

The recent German film Soundless proves that the old adage about books and their covers applies equally to DVDs and their packages. According to the back of its case, Soundless is a movie about an assassin, who, when confronted with “bizarre circumstances” and “a mysterious woman”, decides to “risk everything for love”. These phrases smack of Hollywood at its worst and depict the film as a trite affair; however, they are ultimately misleading. Soundless (or Lautlos as it is in the original German) is actually an engaging, sharp film that, although not perfect, should present action and intrigue aplenty for fans of thrillers and crime dramas.

The plot of Soundless centers on Viktor (Joachim Król), a hit man with a reputation for penetrating the minds of his victims and killing without making a sound. Aged somewhere in his early 40s, Viktor is going through a mid-life crisis and reconsidering his commitment to a life of crime. In the middle of one job, he sees a woman and, instead of killing her, falls in love. Throughout the movie, Viktor must balance his work and his romance, all the while staying one step ahead of the police.

Although on paper, the plot quality of Soundless is questionable, the film is saved by, appropriately enough for a movie about an assassin, precise execution. From the very beginning, the film is packed with tension. Stefan Arndt and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) contribute masterful production. Director Mennan Yapo demonstrates his innate understanding of suspense in the shadowy sniper scenes. Throughout the film, Yapo applies a keen, almost minimalistic aesthetic that relies heavily on suggestion and enhances the creepiness of the killer’s behavior. Gary Marlowe and Ben Mono provide music that supports the uneasy atmosphere produced by the on-screen action. The soundtrack is repetitive and haunting, and it has the tendency to build right before intense moments and suddenly disappear into silence.

The actors all turn in solid performances. Particularly notable is the work of Christian Berkel, the man who portrays Lang, the detective trying to expose Viktor. Stretched to his breaking point yet intent on putting together the evidence deposited by his quarry, Lang commands sympathy. Although the cast is good, no one really turns in an amazing performance; however, blame for this problem should fall mainly on the writers. One of the movie’s major faults is a lack of serious character development. As Lang unearths clues, the audience learns secrets about Viktor’s past, but the killer never seems to be a complete character. Viewers learn even less about Nina, the woman with whom Viktor falls in love. Investing oneself emotionally in a relationship between two incomplete characters is nearly impossible. As a result, the romantic element of the story never really adds up.

In the end, the problems in Soundless don’t prevent the film from being enjoyable. Although the plot and characters are somewhat shallow, viewers will find themselves quickly swept up in the action. The events move quickly, and the plot features enough twists and turns to make the film an enjoyable ride. A few of the elements of the story require the suspension of disbelief, but such is the case with most thrillers.

One of the most amazing parts about Soundless is that the main character is easy to cheer for even though he is a cold-blooded killer. Viewers can satisfy their own mischievous desires by watching Viktor work out perfect plans and, literally, get away with murder. By the end of the film, Viktor has developed his most complicated scheme ever, and it is so clever that audience members will hold their breath in anticipation of its completion. In this way, the final scheme exactly parallels the movie in general.

Although it is far from being a cinematic masterpiece, Soundless is still a worthwhile film. Unfortunately, with only the movie trailer included as an extra, the current DVD edition is totally lackluster. Still, people who buy the disc won’t be disappointed. Soundless has all the necessary ingredients of a good thriller: intrigue, suspense, and style. It also lacks many of the elements, such as bombastic violence, gratuitous sex, and general stupidity, which mar many Hollywood movies in the same vein. Whether people are searching for a hip, stylish film, or simply want a few good thrills, they will not be disappointed with Soundless.

RATING 6 / 10