Heaven

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Heaven

If, after Run Lola Run, there were any lingering doubts over Tom Tykwer's place among the world's most technically proficient young directors, he lays them to rest in the opening sequence of Heaven, the first part of an incomplete trilogy co-written by the late Krzysztof Kieslowski. Without getting into the "who" and "why," Tykwer introduces the heroine, Cate Blanchett, as she prepares a homemade time-bomb, ascends to the upper floors of a high-rise, and drops it in an office wastebin. While the seconds tick away, he turns the screws by methodically choreographing each key entrance and exit, tracking the bomb as it moves from its intended victim to four unintended victims in an elevator. As a standalone sequence, it's nearly on par with the impromptu tracheotomy in his last film, 2000's The Princess And The Warrior, but Tykwer also plants the seeds for everything that follows. Though partial credit should go to Kieslowski and to Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Kieslowski's longtime writing partner on everything from The Decalogue to the Three Colors trilogy, it seems doubtful that even the great Polish master could have filmed it so skillfully. On the other hand, it seems certain that the subsequent 85 minutes would have been more resonant in Kieslowski's hands, because he had a way with converting the precious into the profound. With Heaven, Tykwer completes his self-appointment as Kieslowski's heir apparent, but since he has always been a better filmmaker than a thinker, his ideas drift into the ether. In a difficult role, Blanchett acquits herself nicely as an English teacher in Italy who turns to terrorism when the local police repeatedly fail to arrest the drug trafficker responsible for her husband's death. Devastated by the loss of innocent life in the blast, Blanchett finds a sympathetic soul in Giovanni Ribisi, a young officer who serves as her translator in the interrogation room. She accepts his offer to break her out of prison, but only for another shot at killing her initial target, after which she intends to serve out her proper time. Blanchett and Ribisi form a bond that's more written than felt, which is partly a function of Kieslowski's cute coincidences—the two share similar names and birthdays—and partly Tykwer's arch, flimsy poetics. Going in reverse celestial order, Heaven was originally intended as the precursor to Purgatory and Hell, but there's no sign here of any larger themes in play, certainly not enough to spark a trilogy with the collective force of Kieslowski's Blue, White, and Red. Tykwer has no current plans to complete the cycle, so for now, its ultimate significance remains an open question.