With harrowing fare like The Piano Teacher and Funny Games to his name, Austrian helmer Michael Haneke has gained a reputation for punching low and punching hard. But the most unsettling thing about his latest offering is just how dull it is.
Not at first, mind: Haneke seems to be in the mood to disorient and disturb, as Anne (Isabelle Huppert) and her young family arrive at their fog-sheathed country home to find it invaded by strangers. Then domestic terror gives way to a ponderous post-apocalyptic drama, the script refusing to reveal exactly what disaster has turned everyone into roving survivalists. (Terrorism? Bio-catastrophe? The rise of the machines?)
Haneke's attitude is to keep it realist, avoiding Hollywood sensationalism; but he's hard-pressed to make a deep impact with his sketchy characters and shuffling pace, while the lack of music or humour - black or otherwise - makes things all the more gruelling.
On the plus side, there's some very impressive night photography and another fine performance from Huppert. But even she can't lift the gloomy veil from this portentous drama.
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