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Review: The Double Hour (La Doppia Ora)

Review: The Double Hour (La Doppia Ora)

La Doppia Ora

Originally released in Italy in October of 2009, The Double Hour finally reaches American shores as the feature-length debut of director Guiseppe Capotondi. And what a debut it is! Few films today can lay legitimate claim to the thriller genre made famous by Alfred Hitchcock all those many years ago, but there remain glimpses of the deftness and wit that permeated the films of the late great cinematic Master. Capotondi takes a brilliantly crafted story (penned by Allesandro Fabbri, Ludovica Rampoldi, and Stefano Sardo) and molds it into a layered pastiche of technical craft and sincere human drama to create a sexy, romantic, suspenseful movie experience that keeps you on the edge of your senses.

The story begins appropriately with an omen as we are introduced to Sonia (played by Kseniya Rappoport), a maid at an up-scale hotel, who enters the room of a young tenant who—while Sonia is cleaning the bathroom—takes her own life. With this, the groundwork is laid for a journey wrought with tension and suspense. New in town, we next find Sonia at a speed dating session where she meets Guido (Filippo Timi), a tall, dark, ruggedly handsome former cop turned security guard. The spark between them is immediate setting off their burgeoning romance.

The drama begins when Guido brings Sonia to the lavish estate that he guards, disarming the security measures in order to take her on a stroll through the grounds. Their romantic jaunt is cut short when a group of well-prepared, masked thieves infiltrates the estate and holds a gun to Sonia’s head forcing Guido to allow them access to an invaluable art collection. After taking what they came for, the leader of the robbers threatens to take even more from Sonia, which throws Guido over the edge. A struggle ensues and a shot is fired killing Guido and grazing Sonia in the head. From here Sonia struggles to keep it together—making mistakes at work, hearing a familiar song wherever she goes, seeing Guido’s face in dark corners—all the while being followed by Dante (Michele Di Mauro), Guido’s friend with the police who uncovers the details of Sonia’s tainted past and suspects her involvement in the robbery.

The ever-mounting tension holds you from the very beginning building with each new scene thanks to textbook execution of tricks of the thriller trade (e.g. odd camera angles, evocative sound design, moody lighting) without ever feeling like a rip-off of something we’ve seen a million times before. The storytelling is taut, the imagery evocative and the hypnotic tapestry is held firmly together by the nimble performance of Kseniya Rappoport (The Unknown Woman) who dances between raindrops to keep us guessing as to what is fact and what is fiction. Enigmatic and sultry, she delivers the pitch-perfect blend to cement the film’s tone. She pairs up flawlessly with Filippo Timi who plays Guido with the tepid wit of a depressed widower attempting to fill the void with speed dating and meaningless sex. Until he meets Sonia, that is.

The picture excites at every turn manipulating us like a cryptic concerto helped with an excellent score by Pasquale Catalano and music from Godspeed You! Black Emperor (one of my personal favorites), whose gloomy, post-apocalyptic sounds add haunting tension to several already gripping scenes.

The Double Hour is a worthy throwback to the times when filmmaking discovered its power to hold an audience by its ankles to the sticky theater floor with a captivating blend of romantic allure and pulse-pounding turns. A smartly penned story steered by the adept hand of a new member of the Hitchcock class, this film has the chops to make you ask for a double helping.

© Chris Anthony Hamilton 2011

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