A Few Days in September Starring: Juliette Binoche, John Turturro, Nick Nolte Director: Santiago Amigorena The film: The publicity artwork for A Few Days in September, with a gun-toting Juliette Binoche in the foreground, might suggest she's finally being cast against type. But it turns out that Santiago Amigorena's directorial debut is anything but a straightforward espionage thriller. With the shoot-outs and body count easily tallied on one hand, the film is more like a mix of Waiting for Godot and Wim Wenders' early films. Action is sparse, secondary to atmospherics and the tension among the protagonists, on the run from a murderous foe and into the shadowy presence of a paternal figure with a secret that will affect their identities and the world at large. The story begins on September 1, 2001, and the mysterious character is Elliott (Nick Nolte), a rogue CIA operative who recruits a former associate, French agent Helene played by Binoche (right), to reunite him with two estranged children from different marriages (Sara Forestier and newcomer Tom Riley). After an aborted meeting in Paris, the group travels to Venice and learn that others are after Elliott, who seemingly holds a secret about an imminent cataclysmic event. Apart from the poetry-spouting, shrink-dependent CIA assassin (John Turturro) hell-bent on killing him, there's also a group of Saudi businessmen whom Elliott has advised to withdraw all their assets from the US - for reasons that are clear in hindsight. A Few Days in September has some fine touches that make for a good noirish thriller. There are the menacing presences lurking in the shadows, ceaseless pursuits, dying men drowning in pools of blood and a key figure that remains obscure until the very end. And there are sharp performances all round, from Binoche's aloof special agent, her two warring and confused charges (with Forestier as the farm hand Orlando, playing tough as nails while Riley, as the Wasp-esque David, subverts the American stereotype by being a gentle literary character) and Turturro inducing hilarity and terror just like a hitman in a Tarantino film would. But what undermines Amigorena's film is how it fails to reconcile its twin intentions of being pensive yet sensationally paranoid. While the frisson among the trio makes for solid drama, the spell is repeatedly broken by the thrills and the constant reminder that someone - the US government, or representatives of corporate interests - knew of the September 11 attacks well in advance and still allowed them to happen in order to reap a financial reward. Although the question of how plausible that notion is remains debatable, the issue seems inappropriately woven into a story designed to focus on human relationships rather than political conspiracy. The extras: Although there's a lot of space for further elaboration from the cast and crew, the DVD - incredibly - boasts no significant extra features apart from a trailer. The verdict: Although it's beautiful to watch and the performances are stirring, the film at times looks empty and unfulfilling, the atmospherics unable to add the substance the story needs.