Directed by Michael Haneke, starring Isabelle Huppert, Lucas Biscombe, Anais Demoustier, Hakim Taleb, Olivier Gourmet, Patrice Chéreau and Béatrice Dalle.
If you've sat through Michael Haneke's 'Funny Games', 'Code Unknown' or 'The Piano Teacher', you'll know that entertainment isn't on his agenda. Clinical probings of violence, rich vs poor and the disintegration of the family are. And in 'Time of the Wolf' he gets the biggest slab of all to examine them on: life after the apocalypse.
While we are never told what exactly has happened, it has forced Anne (Huppert), her husband and two children (Biscombe and Demoustier) to flee the city with a plan to hide out in their country cabin. But they arrive only to find it has been taken over by another family. Their hopes of sharing last roughly three minutes before Anne's husband is shot dead and she is told the same fate awaits unless she leaves.
Wandering the deserted roads with her son and daughter, she meets a young boy (Taleb) and together they find another bunch of survivors (including Chereau and Dalle) in the buildings of a railway junction. Anne finds out they are all waiting on a train to take them south, but since it is nearly a week since the last one, hope looks like it will run out before the water.
Haneke's vision of society in ruins could be called '28 Days Later' - but only because the pacing is so bad. A brilliant opening, again highlighting his power with violence that you don't actually see, is never properly built on and the rest of the film trudges along as if the long-awaited train is being pushed by hand.
Part of the problem is that he doesn't devote enough screen time to Huppert. Her character's attempts to hang on to a lighter and her sanity gives the first half-hour a centre; when she arrives at the camp, the story wanders into the horrors faced by other survivors and loses momentum.
Those who remember seeing the BBC's nuclear nightmare 'Threads' on TV in the 80s will find plenty of the same feelings returning here. The squalor, random violence and death won't leave you with any appetite and the film as an allegory of the fate of asylum seekers is far more disturbing than almost everything onscreen.
Curiously, it closes on a note of hope that is welcome yet rushed. It's as if Haneke didn't know how to end the film and tacked on a finish that could make people go home calmer, but still unsatisfied. Anyone who had stuck with him on this trek deserved better, especially Huppert.