Heaven (2002)
Heaven (2002)

Genre: Crime Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 37 min.

Release Date: October 4th, 2002 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Tom Tykwer Actors: Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, Remo Girone, Stefania Rocca, Alessandro Sperduti, Mattia Sbragia, Stefano Santospago




fter building a ticking contraption, English teacher Philippa Paccard (Cate Blanchett) heads to the Ulcom Electronics skyscraper, where she plants the explosive device in the trash can of an executive, Marco Vendice (Stefano Santospago). But, thanks to some very contrived writing, a maid swoops in to remove the garbage mere seconds before it detonates. Shortly thereafter, the police grab Philippa, who had previously placed a call to inform the authorities that she felt the need to seek justice herself, after having been ignored for so long.

The next day In the Italian carabinieri interrogation room, Paccard, who insists upon testifying in English, learns that her plan failed and that she’s now responsible for the deaths of four innocent people – including two young children. She’s further charged with belonging to a terrorist organization, though her motive was solely to get back at Vendice, the man in charge of a drug operation that resulted in her husband’s deadly overdose some years back. An unusually friendly and sympathetic carabinieri officer, Filippo Fabrizi (Giovanni Ribisi), connects with the murderess; a peculiar young man, he proclaims that it’s love at first sight, and fashions a plan to jailbreak her. As the questioning continues over several days, Paccard chronicles how the Ulcom executive has been distributing drugs to most of the city, including children, and that all of her communications with the police have been destroyed, thanks to obvious corruption – and a possible connection between Major (Maggiore) Pini (Mattia Sbragia) and Vendice.

The setup is incomplex enough, despite the unfortunate clunkiness of the accidental deaths, transitioning into Blanchett convincingly portraying a remorseful woman whose ill-planned revenge tactics have caused an unintended catastrophe. Curiously, her chance at freedom – and possibly redemption – comes from an equally random encounter, with a love story that is sudden and unlikely. Yet the premise, no matter the extreme coincidences of its design, possesses an intricacy and some clever twists that make the film something of a spellbinder.

The runtime is short, but director Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”) allows his camera to linger on expressions, on locations, and on simple movements, letting the gravity – or the simplicity – sink in. It’s a collection of beautiful compositions, allowing a wealth of information to be conveyed through visuals alone. Even in moments of suspense or violence, the focus is not on an individual act, but on the emotions surrounding it; there’s a stark realism to virtually every sequence, even as “Heaven” evolves into a fugitive thriller. And sweet, gentle piano notes aid in establishing a tone of contemplation rather than fear or agitation; peacefulness proves to be more powerful than commotion. It’s certainly a unique – and highly effective – way to orchestrate a crime drama.

As the mismatched duo elude the authorities and form a deeper bond, the little things, like stopping off at a church, or a hug in Montepulciano, or a lengthy pause before answering a question, manage to be profound. Even the distresses of abandoning hope and wishing to pay for sins exhibit an artistry rarely found in these kinds of storylines (the kind involving reckless vigilante justice). And then it does what it needs to do to become unforgettable: it references a long-forgotten shot from the beginning, bringing a purpose and symbolism to a staggering finale.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10