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Originally published Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 3:07 PM

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‘Flight of the Storks’: Mystery thriller takes a very long path

A 2.5-star movie review of “Flight of the Storks,” a murder mystery/psychodrama/smuggling tale/horror show derived from a French TV miniseries. It’s not original or compelling enough to justify its epic length.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review 2.5 stars

‘Flight of the Storks,’ with Harry Treadaway, Clemens Schick, Perdita Weeks, Rutger Hauer. Directed by Jan Kounen, from a screenplay by Jean-Christophe Grangé and Denis McGrath. 194 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains violence, nudity, sexual situations, drug use and profanity). SIFF Cinema at the Uptown.

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They’re everywhere in “Flight of the Storks.” Flying overhead. Pacing about on the ground. Peering out of cages. Pulling the guts out of a man’s bloody corpse.

Well then. Clearly, this will not be a nature film about the migratory patterns of these stately birds. Though the lead character, a young man named Jonathan Anselme (Harry Treadaway), professes to be engaged in a “research project” ostensibly focused on that very thing. Can you say “cover story”?

Can you also say “spy story”? “Murder mystery”? “Smuggling tale”? “Horror show”? “Psychodrama overloaded with heavy ingestions of psychotropic substances”? And even: “travelogue”? (From Switzerland to Bulgaria to Istanbul to Israel and ultimately to the Congo goes Jonathan.)

“Storks,” originally produced as a French TV miniseries, is all of those things. And one more thing: It’s very, very long. Three hours in the version being shown at the Uptown.

Based on a 1994 novel by French mystery writer Jean-Christophe Grangé, who is also one of the picture’s credited screenwriters, and directed by Dutch filmmaker Jan Kounen, “Storks” follows Jonathan as he travels to all those distant destinations, evading killers and becoming romantically entangled with an Israeli beauty (Perdita Weeks). And while he does so, those storks are ever present, key elements to one of the plot’s several central mysteries.

Another mystery shrouds a traumatic incident in Jonathan’s childhood. Drug-induced hallucinations figure prominently in what turns out to be his search for the truth about his identity. He’s not sure who he really is.

The picture thus has a lot on its plate. But the whole turns out to be less than the sum of its parts. What may have worked well divided into miniseries segments doesn’t really hold together very well as an epic-length movie. There isn’t enough that’s original or compelling here to justify that length. “Storks” overstays its welcome.

Soren Andersen:

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