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Vertigo: Highly Promising Ramadan Thriller
Sabry stars as Fareeda, a photographer who witnesses a hitman murder one business tycoon and seriously injure another in a bar named Vertigo in which two of her friends, both of whom were killed in the attack, worked. Armed with photographs of the assassin, Fareeda tries to find out the identity of both the killer and the people who ordered the hit without exposing herself and her sister Fawzeyya (El Sibai) to their wrath. She becomes entangled in a web of filth and corruption that spreads far higher and wider than she ever thought possible; a web that includes not only business types but politicians, journalists and artists as well.
We’re kind of loving Vertigo in a way that we previously thought impossible for a Ramadan TV show. While most of the shows this year look nothing like the serials of yore when it comes to production design and camera work, Vertigo goes the extra mile. The score is one of the first things that pops out at you and while it can occasionally be slightly overwrought, with it’s cold, electronic pulses it’s unlike anything you’d associate with Egyptian TV and goes perfectly with the show. But the really great thing about Vertigo is that it in no way feels like an American knock off. The show doesn’t tow the line between Egyptian and American styles so much as it integrates them beautifully. It occupies this sweet spot where everything is aspirational and TV glossy without veering into the ridiculous. Both wealth and poverty look glamorous without being offensive or obscene and the actors all look like normal people - just prettier, shinier.
At the centre of the show is not the web that Fareeda gets caught up in but the friendship between her and her best friend and co-worker Omar (El Shafei). Fingers crossed that their relationship stays platonic throughout the season, but even if they do become romantically entangled later on - as is becoming more and more likely with every passing episode and with each sigh from Omar about how lonely he is - we’re happy that we’re getting to see what looks like a gloriously real and strong friendship between a guy and a girl. El Shafei, in addition to being adorable, provides most of the show’s humour.
While the very talented Sabry is the undisputed star of the show, she’s surrounded by quite a vast and stellar supporting cast that includes, among others, El Lozy and Hatem as a journalist couple working at rival newspapers. As the episodes pass the story grows in scope very organically and the web of corruption becomes more intricate. The number of characters swells and the connections between them grow more obvious. But because the characters are so interesting and so diverse, the story acquires a very personal and intimate vibe despite being one that encompasses a huge swath of society.
Although it will inevitably attract criticism as an adaptation of Ahmed Murad’s book, as a standalone TV show it’s given us more than enough reason to be optimistic and keep watching. We’re hooked.
They would try anything as if they had no fear of failure. They weren’t afraid of screwing up because the process and the act of creation were the important parts; if the product ended up sucking it was no big deal because they’d already be at work on the next piece. At least that’s the vibe that the documentary gives off. It also helps that the modern day, grown-up No Wavers seem every bit as cool as they did back then.
Based on John le Carre’s espionage novel of the same name, A Most Wanted Man marks the very last full-scale performance for the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, whose captivating and absorbing role as a cautious and weary spy-operative, not only adds to his already-glowing repertoire, but also serves to be a genuinely sad reminder of just how much he will be missed from the big screen.
Directed by Anton Corbijn, A Most Wanted Man is set in Hamburg, Germany – the city revealed to have been the main hub for the 9/11 terrorists – where an underground anti-terrorist squad is working to prevent similar events.
Run by jaded agent, Gunther (Hoffman), the team is soon put to work when a known and wanted Chechen refugee, Issa Karpov (Dobrygin) – labelled as an escaped jihadist – is picked up by their radar. Gunter and his team of dedicated infiltrators – including surveillance operator Max (Bruhl) and Gunther’s right-hand, Erna (Hoss) – soon begin to pursue the young militant whose mission in Germany is still relatively unclear.
As it turns out, Issa is in the country to withdraw a large sum of money left to him by his criminal father. In order to get to the banker, Mr. Tommy Brue (Dafoe), and begin to live a life free of guilt, he will need the help of human-rights lawyer, Annabel (McAdams). However, Gunther and his team believe that they could use Issa – and his money – to catch a much bigger fish, but the involvement of sharp and shady CIA agent, Martha Sullivan (Wright), and the meddling fingers of the German police, soon begin to threaten and endanger his mission.
Cold, murky and grey, A Most Wanted Man offers a heavy atmosphere that serves as the perfect platform foran old-fashioned espionage-thriller, much like le Carre’s 1965 The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. The pacing is slow and testing, there is a lot of talk and not a lot of action; those hoping to find more of that Bourne-like oomph and vivacity may end up walking away from this a little drained and disappointed.
Serving as the main pillar and the quietly gripping force of the film, Hoffman – as a man haunted by his troubling past and someone who is clearly carrying the weight of the world and all of its ugliness on his shoulders – is spellbinding. Despite having to sport a peculiar German accent, Hoffman is able to lead and ultimately, stand out from, the rest of the cast.