Antibodies (Antikörper)
Made in: Germany
Language: German
Director: Christian Alvart
Starring: André Hennicke, Wotan Wilke Möhring, Heinz Hoenig, Ulrike Krumbiegel, Hauke Diekamp, Klaus Zmorek, Jürgen Schornagel, Isabel Bongard
Year: 2005

Synopsis: Sick and twisted serial killer Gabriel Engel (André Hennicke) is responsible for over a dozen murders. Most of his victims are children, with the brutal crimes being sexual in nature.

After a brief standoff with police in Berlin, he is arrested by Commissioner Seiler (Heinz Hoenig), a veteran agent in the Federal Criminal Police Office, or BKA (Bundeskriminalamt).

Away in the countryside, small town police chief Michael Martens (Wotan Wilke Möhring) is still haunted by the unsolved rape and murder of Lucia Flieder (Isabel Bongard), a twelve year-old girl.

A devout Catholic, Martens is a humorless, morally rigid fellow whose unwavering adherence to self discipline and righteousness is taking its toll on his family. His marriage to wife Rosa (Ulrike Krumbiegel) is passionless, and his adolescent son Christan (Hauke Diekamp) begins exhibiting some disturbing behavior.

Although all the townsfolk in Michael's town believe that the captured Engel is responsible for Lucia's gruesome murder, the small town cop is doubtful. When given an opportunity to meet with Seiler in Berlin, Michael interrogates Engel in hopes of learning the truth behind the unsolved case.

But when confronted face to face with the serial killer, a twisted psychological game begins...with potentially deadly consequences.

As Engel tries to use Michael's deeply rooted morality against him, Michael begins questioning everything he believes in. The line between truth and a psychopath's sick imagination begins to blur.

Is Gabriel Engel the killer Michael has been seeking, or is the real murderer still out there, lurking in Michael's town...hiding in plain sight?

The Good: Antibodies is a well-acted, solidly crafted crime thriller. Director Christian Alvart does a great job telling a psychologically fascinating tale, and the cast is superb.

André Hennicke does a highly convincing job as the serial killer. Not only does he look creepy, but his character's profile is very well researched. Engel's pathological narcissism and soullessness is genuinely chilling, and perfectly acted by Hennicke.

The story unfolds at a good pace, neither rushing nor dragging on. The character of Michael Martens is fascinating as well, and Antibodies makes some sensible arguments about the unintentional evil caused by repressive morality.

Without becoming anti-religous, the film makes mature, reasoned points about the dangers of misinterpreting Judeo-Christian doctrine (the lessons of which are actually found in the Bible but often unnoticed).

The Bad: Although Christian Alvart helms a very well-told story, the underlying structure isn't too original. It's essentially a Silence of the Lambs formula, where the good guys have to turn to a Hannibal Lecter-ish villain in order to solve a crime.

This movie even openly jokes about that at one point, as if to acknowledge the similarities which will be inevitably noticed by the viewer.

Who would like this movie: Nonetheless, Antibodies is worth seeing if you're a fan of foreign films and spooky crime stories about serial killers.

It's bolder, darker, more graphic, and more explicit than comparable Hollywood movies, but never goes over the top in the violence/gore department. I would argue that it's more effective than films such as David Fincher's Seven, and far more realistic.

Save for the formulaic premise that doesn't launch it far beyond its genre, Antibodies is a satisfying, effective thriller that will hold your attention until the end.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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