The human heart is a tricky thing. It can make decisions that seem simple almost overwhelmingly complex, while difficult choices are rendered quickly, with little thought. It's but one of many concepts writer/director Anthony Minghella tackles with his occasionally inert, at times riveting drama Breaking and Entering, a film that was met with box office indifference and lukewarm critical reaction.
Plenty of meaty topics roil just beneath the surface of this admittedly stylish, beautifully shot film -- cinematographer Benoit Delhomme makes the seedy Kings Cross neighborhood in London look positively luminous at times -- not least of which are the thorny issues of immigration, class, love, responsibility and trust.
What's most curious about Breaking and Entering is that it seems to have been sold as some kind of prurient thriller; a sexy, steamy story that entangles Amira, a well-meaning Bosnian refugee (Juliette Binoche, reuniting with her English Patient director) and Will (Jude Law), a work-obsessed architect in the midst of an enormous urban renewal project, situated near downtown London. It's a much more somber, complicated film that treads into ambiguous territory than your run-of-the-mill adultery drama -- and you can tell, since Minghella takes his sweet time advancing the plot, spending almost an hour establishing relationships between his characters and letting them find their own way. He even goes so far as to introduce a relatively unnecessary character in the form of Oana (Vera Farmiga), a hooker Will befriends one evening; those expecting Amira and Will to fall into bed within the first 30 minutes will be bored out of their minds.
Minghella is far more interested in creating a posh riff upon the ideas of Crash, believe it or not. Will's architectural firm is in a sketchy neighborhood, so the police aren't surprised when a series of break-ins occur. Frustrated, Will and his partner Sandy (Martin Freeman) attempt to catch the thieves themselves, which only leads them both down separate and fascinating paths.
There's more that could be said about Will's journey but spoiling it would ruin the meticulous pleasures of Minghella's film; it's not an obvious, melodramatic work, although it certainly threatens to be at times. Instead, it's a low-key, gently unfolding film that's packed with a phenomenal cast -- alongside Law, Farmiga, Freeman and Binoche, Robin Wright Penn and Ray Winstone contribute solid work -- and a perfectly open-ended conclusion that suggests for all of our differences, we're not nearly as far apart from one another as we might think. Breaking and Entering isn't mind-blowing cinema, but rather a film -- unfairly dismissed -- that works if you sit back and let it.
Befitting Delhomme's exquisite images, Breaking and Entering is presented in a razor-sharp 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that renders the low-lit night scenes and stark daylight scenes with equal clarity. It's a near-flawless visual representation.
Reliant primarily on dialogue, rather than score or sound effects, Breaking and Entering is a sober sonic affair, making good use of its Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack to render dialogue cleanly (if a bit softly; I had to crank the volume in a few places). A French Dolby Digital 5.1 track is on hand, as are optional English and Spanish subtitles.
Minghella contributes an erudite, mellow commentary to the film; a 12 minute, 50 second featurette -- "Lie. Cheat. Steal. Love.: Making Breaking and Entering" -- is included, as are six deleted scenes with optional Minghella commentary and the theatrical trailer.
Anthony Minghella's film; Breaking and Entering is not an obvious, melodramatic work, although it certainly threatens to be at times. Instead, it's a low-key, gently unfolding film that's packed with a phenomenal cast -- alongside Jude Law, Vera Farmiga, Martin Freeman and Juliette Binoche, Robin Wright Penn and Ray Winstone contribute solid work -- and a perfectly open-ended conclusion that suggests for all of our differences, we're not nearly as far apart from one another as we might think. Breaking and Entering isn't mind-blowing cinema, but rather a film -- unfairly dismissed -- that works if you sit back and let it. Recommended.