As a showcase of acting and directing, In the Fade is unquestionably a success. Director Fatih Akin shows a knack for creating and sustaining tension, latching onto even mundane events with thriller tenterhooks. As an actress, Diane Kruger – playing Katja, whose husband and son are murdered in a hate crime – is exceptional. She inhabits the excesses found at her emotional margins without toppling over into excess.
Yet In the Fade feels ultimately disappointing. The explosion that rends Katja’s life in twain occurs early on, and she’s immediately convinced the culprits are Nazis. Her conviction is unclear, but proven accurate; the second act settles on a court case where the Neo-Nazis in question are brought to trial. These scenes are at once gripping and trite, playing on the all-too-familiar tropes of evil misleading attorneys and impotent judges. There must be a third act, so the Nazis must go free, but what is this saying about justice or race or Germany today?
Not a whole lot, as it turns out. The credits crudely link the preceding events to real-life hate crimes, but despite the movie (effectively) manipulating an emotional response in its audience, it has nothing of substance behind its thin thrills.