Combustible Celluloid
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With: Andrew Buchan, Millie Brady, Phoebe Fox, Jeff Fahey, Andrew Buchan, Jack Brett Anderson, Scott Alexander Young, Joe Hurst, Dan Cade, Skye Hallam, Tracy Wiles
Written by: Daniel Alfredson, Birgitta Bongenhielm, based on a novel by Håkan Nesser
Directed by: Daniel Alfredson
MPAA Rating: R for language
Running Time: 104
Date: 05/08/2020

Intrigo: Samaria (2020)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Documentary of a Lost Girl

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The third in a trilogy of murder mysteries based on novels by the Swedish author Hakan Nesser, this, like the others, is too slow, transparent, confusing, and inconsistent to really provide a jolt.

In Intrigo: Samria, Paula (Phoebe Fox) wishes to make a documentary about her classmate, Vera (), who was murdered in her own home years earlier. Her father (Jeff Fahey) was arrested for the crime and is currently in prison. Paula runs into her former teacher, Henry (Andrew Buchan), and asks if he wants to help.

He comes to stay with her and they proceed to interview the people that knew Vera, but Henry becomes dismayed at Paula's predilection for recording people without their knowledge. After a visit to Vera's family farmhouse, Samaria, Paula discovers a clue that could change everything and reveal what really happened.

It's interesting how all three movies — Intrigo: Death of an Author and Intrigo: Dear Agnes are the first two entries — fail to work in much the same ways. The main problem is that the writing of the mystery is far from seamless or self-contained. In each case, it looks as if the ending were written first (not uncommon for mystery writers), but then there was trouble tracing the story back to the beginning. For example, in Intrigo: Samaria, there's no reason in the world why Henry should agree to work on Paula's film, other than the fact that the plot requires him to be there.

Perhaps because the plot is so rigid, the character motivations, and then behaviors, begin to suffer. In so many instances, characters just seem to be drifting, as if unsure which emotion they ought to be having at that moment. Moments that should be surprises, such as when Paula sneakily tries to record a conversation with Henry without his knowledge, are instead brutally obvious.

But perhaps Intrigo: Samria's worst offense is that, finally, its payoff has so very little to do with the entire setup; instead it feels like a "surprise twist" that was tacked on after poor test audience scores. The performers are good, and the characters can be likable or interesting in their own ways, but otherwise, the Intrigo series is far from intriguing.

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