directed by Tom Tykwer opens Oct. 18 at Metro and Uptown
HEAVEN IS A three-way stylistic collision. It has the tricky, artsy romanticism of producer Anthony Minghella (of English Patient fame), the mannered fantasy of its late co-writer Krzysztof Kieslowski (who was about to die when he wrote this and always wrote as if from beyond the grave), and the relentless momentum favored by director Tom Tykwer (of Run, Lola, Run fame). After planting a bomb that kills innocent people instead of her drug- dealer target, the sensitive, saintly heroine Philippa (Cate Blanchett) gets interrogated by Turin's finest, who are in cahoots with the drug lord. Filippo, a cop with chipmunk cheeks and dead-man bedroom eyes (Giovanni Ribisi), abruptly falls in love with her, devises her escape, and goes on the run to help her nab the druggie and elude the carabiniere. It's a hackneyed chase-scene flick narrated in a style so perversely static and meditative, it could be titled Float, Philippa, Float.
Straightforward Tykwer tames Kieslowski's maddening elliptical quality, sweetens his fatalism, and injects his own flavor of dreamy lyricism. Seen from above, the pretty brick grid of Turin's streets seem a mazelike prison—but they're no match for plucky Philippa and her ingenious near-namesake, who hotfoot it from the action-movie opening scenes to the wide-open spaces of the Tuscan countryside, which cinematographer Frank Griebe glorifies like a Renaissance painter. (One wonders if the two are named after that escape-prone rebel celebrator of the everyday, Fra Filippo Lippi.) The camera tenderly caresses everything it sees: the breastlike hills, the growing dot of light at the end of a train tunnel, Blanchett's lovely, changeable face. She's mercurially marvelous; Ribisi makes Edward Norton look manly. When their helicopter ascends to heaven at the end, Kieslowski would've made it sad, ironic. Tykwer makes it a quietly exultant exit to a mild blue yonder.