A potent star vehicle for a European actor now gaining recognition in North America, Phantom Pain shows Til Schweiger at the top of his game – virile, passionate and nuanced in his portrayal of a man fighting back from disaster.
Schweiger is hands-down Germany's biggest movie star. In both presence and power, he is the Teutonic Brad Pitt, so much so that it was a natural for Quentin Tarantino to cast them together in Inglourious Basterds.
A contemporary story of physical and emotional struggle, Phantom Pain shows Schweiger taking on the role of Mark Sumner, a man in peak physical condition who has never had to pay nearly as much attention to his loved ones as he does to his training. Ruggedly handsome and an enthralling storyteller, Marc charms all those around him – especially women. He keeps his life simple and unfettered by working odd jobs and shirking responsibility, all so he can travel the world conquering agonizing courses on his beloved bicycle. Unreliable and constantly broke, he even evades parental duties with his daughter Sarah (played by Schweiger's own daughter, Luna). But she'll forgive him almost anything, as will Nika (Jana Pallaske), a beautiful young woman who drifts in and out of his love life. Marc pedals hard on the pavement but coasts through his days, until one night on a dark road when everything changes.
Waking up in the emergency ward, he faces the worst possible news, and he does what any man might do. He rages. He denies. He refuses to accept his fate. And then he has to re-enter his life and try to rebuild it.
Phantom Pain marks a striking debut for director Matthias Emcke. With a sensibility as much American as it is European, he urges the story forward with every scene, putting hard choices in front of his protagonist and capturing the detail of his response. It's a compelling and moving film – more so when you know it was inspired by the true story of a Canadian, Steven Sumner.
2 min 9 sec
September 14, 2009
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