Cut Off (2018)

Rating: C+

Dir: Christian Alvart
Star: Moritz Bleibtreu, Jasna Fritzi Bauer, Enno Hesse, Lars Eidinger
a.k.a. Abgeschnitten

This started off really well, with a highly intriguing idea, which kept me gripped solidly for the first hour or so. The bad news is, the movie lasts for 132 minutes. The further on we go, the greater the degree of contrivance necessary, for the plot to keep moving forward. It eventually lost me, and ended up coasting over the finish line on momentum, having run out of fuel a good thirty minutes earlier. Still, nice to see Bleibtreu again. He’ll always be lazy ne’er-do-well Manni from Run Lola Run to us, so seeing him here as an angry forensic pathologist with a teenage daughter, came as something of a shock. [In related news, Franka Potente is 48.]

It gets under way with medical examiner Prof. Dr. Paul Herzfeld (Bleibtreu) carrying out an autopsy. Inside the cadaver’s brain he finds a small capsule, which contains a piece of paper with his daughter’s name and a telephone number. Calling it, he hears a panicked message from his daughter telling him she’s been kidnapped, not to tell anyone, and that “Erik” will have more information. Repeatedly re-calling, he eventually contacts Linda (Bauer), who had found the phone by a corpse on the remote island of Heligoland, which is about to be cut off by a storm. With “Erik” written on the corpse’s shirt, Paul convinces Linda to help him, rather than inform the authorities. And, by “help”, I mean “carry out an impromptu, amateur autopsy” to find the next clue.

This scene is likely where the movie is at its best. Whoever did the corpse effects can only be commended, because these are genuinely gnarly throughout. I was looking forward to Linda then being guided through this psycho scavenger hunt by Paul. They’d be working together to solve the case and free his daughter from her abductor (Eidinger), using a combination of her pluck and his expertise. Except… that’s not quite what we get. I’m not sure how accurate this is to the novel on which it’s based. Hopefully the source was less artificial. For instance, it feels like both Linda and Paul get given sidekicks – a hospital caretaker and intern (Hesse) respectively – who exist purely so the main characters can externalize internal monologues, which work better on the page.

The motivation for the whole scheme is also beyond the realms of the credible. That the kidnapper might hold a personal grudge is fair enough. Instead, what we get is a bizarre kind of third-hand vigilante justice. Then there’s a subplot about Linda being stalked by an ex-boyfriend; it never amounts to more than a red herring. For all the things that the director, actors and special effects people do right, the flaws in the script weigh heavily against them. By the time we reach the finale, involving a helicopter flying over the North Sea, and the world’s sharpest knife, the bulk of the promise shown early had dribbled away, like body fluids spiralling down a mortuary drain.