Saturday, June 22, 2024

“AN ORDINARY CASE”

THE STORY – A man is accused of murdering his wife. His lawyer must defend him against all odds, and especially against himself.

THE CAST – Daniel Auteuil, Grégory Gadebois, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Alice Belaïdi & Suliane Brahim

THE TEAM – Daniel Auteuil (Director/Writer) & Steven Mitz (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 115 Minutes


There’s always something so reliable about a capable procedural. With its structure, it’s easy to identify how one can become quickly invested. There is always a clearly stated goal that the characters are racing towards, so the motivations are easily defined with a relatively narrow focus. It’s a foundation that more efficiently establishes the stakes and races toward a resolution that one can comfortably find investment in its conclusion. Sacrifices are generally made in terms of character, whether that’s a minimum of personal details that aren’t intriguing or bypassing that altogether. However, it’s typically done in the service of assembling a focused story that builds up toward a cathartic finale. “An Ordinary Case” contains nearly all of these hallmarks and presents them with an efficient, if pedestrian, competency.

At the center of this tale is a well-publicized trial. Nicolas Milik (Grégory Gadebois) has just been arrested for the brutal murder of his wife. Her body was found abandoned in a remote field with a knife wound to her neck. Milik constantly pleads his innocence, insisting they were in a difficult marriage but that he wouldn’t be capable of committing such a horrendous act. One of those who is sympathetic to his case is Jean Monier (Daniel Auteuil), who decides to take up the case and act as Milik’s defense attorney. As he investigates further, more information is uncovered that compels Monier to believe his client’s innocence. However, this perseverance is taking a toll on both his professional and personal life. His partner, Annie (Sidse Babbett Knudsen), grows concerned with the level of involvement he has made, and others also worry about the implications of his convictions. Monier forges ahead, hoping to clear the name of a wronged man, with each new step revealing more tidbits that will expose the ultimate truth.

Auteuil pulls triple duty here as not only the film’s star but also its director and co-writer. For his part behind the camera, there isn’t a unique skill he brings to the craft. The filmmaking is pretty straightforward without much style, instead choosing to simply observe this intriguing case as it unfolds. The results can be mixed, especially as he doesn’t always secure a consistent momentum to keep an engaging pace. Still, as a standard courtroom drama, it delivers on that front. Its ambitions are modest, and the execution reflects that sentiment. While Auteuil’s direction may not be all that stylish, he does have a keen sense of knowing which elements of the story should keep one invested in the next portion. What is showcased is a basic display but can still be compelling in terms of creating a somewhat engrossing narrative.

That ideology is also reflected in the storytelling that Auteuil and co-writer Steven Mitz have baked into their screenplay. It’s obvious that their script is not meant to be a complex portrait that examines layers of societal preconceived notions that are mixed in with a detailed character study. This is not trying to be “Anatomy of a Fall” or anything close to the level of analysis. The revelations presented are somewhat predictable in their course, and whatever attempts there are to explore the more personal lives of these individuals come across as wooden and mundane. The only element that does lean on the more extraordinary end of the spectrum is the final twist that chooses to show the audience the truth at the heart of this case. It’s an unfortunate misstep because it robs the story of a much-appreciated ambiguity and instead marks a stale delivery in the final moments. At the same time, the last notes are not indicative of the film’s entire arc. One will find this atmosphere captivating, if only as the bare minimum.

As far as the performances go, there isn’t any portrayal here that warrants exceptional praise. Once again, Auteuil puts forth a solid effort that is unlikely to be noticeable, but he carries the role well enough to be the well-suited anchor. In all honesty, he is outshone by several of his co-stars, who deliver a much greater impression. Gadebois can be quite riveting in his screen presence, genuinely projecting the aura of believability with his pleas that always leave room for a sliver of doubt. Again, it’s not a performance many will note as breaking any mold, but he does a serviceable job of presenting an alluring figure. The same goes for Knudsen, who is taking on a typical role but manages to be impactful with the little she is given. She exudes a natural charisma that is very inviting and is able to make the drab domestic scenes come alive with a little bit of spark, an element that one is grateful to receive in an ensemble that is merely functional.

The great irony of “An Ordinary Case” is just how much it lives up to its moniker. There is hardly anything noteworthy about this endeavor, from the execution to its plot or the commentary of its characters. It’s a mostly banal affair that isn’t challenging in any respect. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that the film has firmly set its sights on such meager aspirations. If taken on that level, there is plenty to enjoy. The evolving dramatic pieces that are laid out may not be the most innovative, but they do enough to service the story at hand. A novel storyline that plunders more interesting fields will not be found here. However, if one is interested in a competent thriller that just manages to pass the threshold to be entertaining, then it’s a worthy option in that canon.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Presents an overall engaging courtroom drama that fulfills the modest expectations it aspires to fill. The supporting performances are captivating and the narrative does a decent job of being compelling.

THE BAD - The storytelling is pretty standard and isn’t at all noteworthy. The momentum can sometimes be stiff. The finale loses a lot of steam with the final twist.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 6/10

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Josh Parham
Josh Parhamhttps://nextbestpicture.com
I love movies so much I evidently hate them. Wants to run a production company.

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Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>Presents an overall engaging courtroom drama that fulfills the modest expectations it aspires to fill. The supporting performances are captivating and the narrative does a decent job of being compelling.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The storytelling is pretty standard and isn’t at all noteworthy. The momentum can sometimes be stiff. The finale loses a lot of steam with the final twist.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>6/10<br><br>"AN ORDINARY CASE"