The Films of Dennis Gansel
Before the Fall
The Wave (July 6/11)
Inspired by true events, The Wave follows German high school teacher Rainer Wenger (Jürgen Vogel) as he reluctantly agrees to spend a week demonstrating the dangers of autocracy - which he attempts to accomplish by adopting the role of dictator and forcing his students to, among other things, wear white shirts and great each other with a salute. (Wenger even agrees to name the group the Wave.) The experiment initially seems promising - the teenagers become studious and obedient - yet it's not long before things begin to spiral out of control. There's little doubt that The Wave fares best in its opening half hour, as filmmaker Dennis Gansel does a superb job of employing the inherently compelling premise to engaging and periodically fascinating effect - with the stirring atmosphere heightened by the stellar performances and by Gansel's striking visual sensibilities. The lack of subtlety within Gansel and Peter Thorwarth's screenplay is, as a result, not as problematic as one might've feared, with the scripters' less-than-delicate modus operandi reflected most keenly in the subplot revolving around an especially ardent follower of the Wave (ie the kid goes so far as to burn his regular clothes). The film's taut atmosphere persists right up until the increasingly stagnant midsection, as Gansel and Thorwarth slowly-but-surely begin to emphasize elements of a decidedly repetitive and conventional nature (eg Wenger accuses his wife of jealousy after she confronts him over the Wave's growing popularity). The inclusion of an engrossing (yet expected) finale ensures that The Wave ends on an exceedingly positive note, though it's ultimately clear that the movie could've used a few more passes through the editing bay.
We Are the Night
The Fourth State
Mechanic: Resurrection (May 28/17)
A fairly decent followup to 2011's The Mechanic, Mechanic: Resurrection follows Jason Statham's Arthur Bishop as he's blackmailed into assassinating three well-guarded figures. There's little doubt that Mechanic: Resurrection takes a really, really long time to wholeheartedly get going, as filmmaker Dennis Gansel, working from a script by Philip Shelby and Tony Mosher, delivers an opening stretch that's almost completely devoid of compelling, attention-grabbing elements - with the decision to stress the exploits of Jessica Alba's generic love interest certainly compounding the movie's less-than-engrossing vibe. And although the first of the three aforementioned kills is disappointingly by-the-numbers, Mechanic: Resurrection benefits substantially from a thoroughly captivating stretch involving Arthur's efforts at sabotaging a roofside swimming pool. It's a turning point that paves the way for a second half that progresses like a rocket through a series of gleefully over-the-top action sequences, with the climactic sequence, which follows Arthur as he takes on an army of goons aboard a luxury yacht, certainly ensuring that Mechanic: Resurrection ends on an impressively exhilarating note - thus confirming, when coupled with Statham's typically compelling, charismatic work here, the film's place as a decent sequel that could've been so much better.