Alicia von RittbergDavid Kross...
In 1 Cinema
Constantly watched, and at any given moment, you could end up in a prison cell, where death happens to be your best-case scenario; intense, huh? Well, Balloon has an intense setup, but can its execution live up to expectations?
Balloon follows a couple of families, who, living in East Germany, attempt to cross the Berlin Wall over to West Germany, using an air balloon that they have built from scratch. With soldiers given orders to shoot anyone who attempts to cross the border, strict surveillance on citizens, and a member of the German police living right across the street; the families live in fear of being caught, especially after a failed first attempt. The attempt had put them under the scrutiny of the police, which means that another attempt is a truly a matter of life or death, but can they make it?
The setup of the plot is very intense and nerve-wracking, because the characters are always looking over their shoulder, and the stakes are so high. However, the film does not really delve into that. It does show a member of the police living across the street and that people are suspicious of one another, and that’s it. The audience does not get to see the inside of the prisons that the characters fear, or the snitching environment the film hints at, or even why the families want to leave East Germany.
The audience needed to see the characters’ motivation for taking such a risk and the grave consequences of failing. The film also does not utilise the fear of the balloon ride itself and depicts it very shallowly. Instead, the two-hour movie created suspense by investing in the process of remaking the balloon and the police search for the families. Yes, there were a few moments of suspense and some anxiety-inducing events.
The characterisation is okay when it comes to one of the families, which takes the bigger share of the limelight, but it falters when it comes to the detective handling the case, making him seem cartoonish rather than the ruthless villain he is meant to be.
Despite being undermined by the film’s flaws, the cast of the Strelzyk family gave strong performances that were not only plausible but also relatable and evoked the right amount of empathy and emotion.
Balloon could have been a great movie, had its filmmakers paid more attention to the circumstances upon which the plot is built.