The "trapped by a stranger" plot has always been one of my favorite horror stories. From Misery to 10 Cloverfield Lane and beyond, there's an inherent tension that can always be elevated by great acting, direction and editing. Berlin Syndrome has at least two of the three.
Teresa Palmer, an Australian actress who's mainly been used as generic blond American girlfriends and wives, finally gets a role with some substance. She's Clare, an Australian photographer who arrives in Germany to travel and do some soul-searching. She's almost immediately smitten with Andi, a local schoolteacher who says all the right things and shows her a great day in the German capital. She decides to delay her trip to Dresden to spend one more day (and night) with Andi. They make love at his apartment, secluded from the rest of the city. When he goes to work the next day, she finds she's locked in, the windows are painted shut and there's absolutely no way out.
While Clare is able-bodied, it's not much of an advantage when Andi has thought of literally everything to keep her locked away without anyone being able to hear or see her, or for her to contact anyone in the outside world.
Of course, with the genders flipped from the most famous versions of this type of story, there's a sexual component that in the wrong hands could feel gross and uncomfortable. Luckily, director Cate Shortland doesn't shy away from the seedier aspects of the story, but neither does she indulge in the films more graphic scenes.
What keeps Berlin Syndrome from the upper echelon of thrillers is its pacing. There's a whole subplot with Andi's father that adds some, shall we say, interesting character development. But ultimately it doesn't add much to the story itself. It could have lost all those scenes, confining the action just to Andi's apartment/dungeon and his awkward encounters at his school and been a tighter, leaner film.
Still, this is a sharp, entertaining, thought-provoking movie that will liven up your Netflix queue.