Adam Stephen Kelly

Watching In Tranzit, I felt as though I could hear a voice trying to grab my attention from within the film. It was a voice, faint at first, that grew louder as the film progressed. Soon it echoed from my television with great clarity and it was evident that the voice was in fact a cry. Something from within the movie was begging; begging for a story to be told. And it begged and begged and begged, but all, shamefully, to no avail.

Based on a true story, In Tranzit takes place just after the Second World War has ended at a Russian prison camp run by a female guard, and headed by the steely-eyed, begrudging Pavlov (Malkovich). A great number of German prisoners of war are transported to the camp and from there... well, not much happens. There's the situation of the German POWs at the camp, and then off that a few angles branch off, but with absolutely no direction. Pavlov begins a search for members of the SS among the prisoners, one of the female guard conspires with the enemy, and another woman has a love affair with a German.

The film breaks free of the stereotype that all Axis soldiers were the epitome of evil. It goes without saying that most who fought in the war were completely opposed to it – on all sides – and were part of a raging machine rather than a personal crusade against a despised enemy, especially with conscription more than rife. This ignorance of the aforementioned stereotype is certainly a good thing, but the payoff is rather bittersweet because this plus doesn't go anywhere, and quickly dissolves into the plight that is a definite negative. I really wish this film had some direction, had a story, as I have no idea what it's trying to be.

The cast has so many strong members, yet their talents are completely wasted on the 108 pages of weakness that make up the script. John Malkovich, one of the finest actors in Hollywood, Vera Farmiga, who would go on to nab Oscar and BAFTA nominations this year for Best Supporting Actress, and of course the irrevocably awesome Daniel Bruhl. It's a real shame to see actors of such calibre spewing lines from a questionably-written screenplay, yet their performances are still top notch in a film where the only language spoken is English.

In Tranzit is a nicely photographed, atmospheric film that does a good job of capturing a POW camp that is not just frozen in the isolated Russian freezer where it sits, but also in the shadow of Malkovich's ruthless commander. Sadly, its few qualities are buried under its massive shortcomings, which, in addition to the above, include a gargantuan plot hole in relation to Pavlov's search for the battle-hardened prisoners who were members of the SS during the war. The SS actually had their blood types tattooed under their arms, so the unlikeable Russian certainly wouldn't have had to look so hard if the film only followed the pages of history!