A finely graded legal thriller, Storm effectively builds its moral and political investigation into the fabric of its central court case. Taking the atrocities of the Bosnian wars as its point of inquiry, Hans-Christian Schmid’s film weighs the legacy of the past against the promise of the future and dramatizes, through the legal proceedings on display, the process by which a balance may be struck between the two. “I’m not interested in politics,” says Hannah Maynard (Kerry Fox), the no-bullshit UN prosecutor charged with bringing alleged war criminal Goran Duric (Drazen Kuhn) to justice, but just about everyone else around her seems to be. As she builds her case against Duric, she has to contend with both the wheeling-and-dealing of her own organization and the threatening power structure of the former Yugoslavia, where she goes to dig for evidence and where she finds that Duric is something like a national Serbian hero. While poking around, she stumbles on a fresh witness, Mira (Anamaria Marinca), a Bosnian now living in Berlin who, though she wants nothing more than to forget the past, agrees, after a little prodding, to testify that Duric rounded up women and took them to a “rape hotel” to be sexually assaulted.
But while Hannah begins prepping her witness, she finds that not everyone is as committed to a politically blind justice as she is. As the former Yugoslavian republics move closer to EU membership, many in the Hague want to soft-pedal Duric’s crimes (and by implication that of the Serbian leaders) in the interest of a smooth transition. Might this strategy, Schmid asks, actually be of more benefit to the hard-pressed citizens of these countries—many of whom, like the pre-conversion Mira, simply want to move on with their lives—than opening up a messy interrogation? It’s an intriguing question, but one not well served by the film’s overheated finale, in which a bit of a dramatically implausible self-righteousness undoes much of the ambiguous moral landscape Schmid has so effectively arranged. Part of the problem may lie in the characterizations, with both Hannah and Mira so committed to justice that they sometimes feel more like incorruptible übsermenschen than flesh-and-blood creatures. Still, their vulnerabilities do peek through on occasion and these, along with their convincing determination, confirm Schmid’s commitment—like Dutch painter Vermeer as parsed in a heated exchange between Hannah and the criminal court judge—to bringing out the human face of the conflict, even as the filmmaker remains acutely aware of the larger political struggles involved.