Fatih Akin’s taut thriller, In the Fade, which won this year’s Golden Globes award for best foreign movie, is a combustible melange of two popular cinematic forms, police procedural and court room drama.

Scheduled to open in Canada on January 19, it’s set against the backdrop of a terrorist incident in the German city of Hamburg that claims the lives of a father and son and leaves an angry widow determined to exact vengeance on the suspected neo-Nazi perpetrators.

Katja (Diane Kruger), happily married, is thrown into inconsolable grief when a powerful nail bomb kills her Kurdish husband, Nuri (Numan Acar), a convicted drug dealer, and their six-year-old son, Rocco (Rafael Santana). Assuming it might be a politically-inspired crime, the detective in charge of the investigation pointedly asks Katja whether Nuri was religiously devout or involved in politics. Dismissing his assumptions, she says he was neither religious nor political.

As she wallows in her sorrow, comforted only by her sister and parents, local newspapers dredge up Nuri’s criminal past, while his bereaved parents insist that Nuri and Rocco should be buried in Turkey, an idea she categorically rejects.

Rummaging through her house, the police find a small quantity of drugs, which, she maintains, are for her own recreational use. The detective questioning Katja believes Nuri had ties to criminals, but she insists he was a tax consultant and a travel agent. She also maintains he was a victim of neo-Nazis, who, in recent years, have targeted foreigners. Their sharp disagreement prompts Katja to end her cooperation with the police, a decision that plunges her deeper into the slough of despond.

Katja’s utter despair is the focus of In the Fade. As she mourns her son’s death, she curls up in a fetal position in his bunk bed. Later, in a shockingly stark scene, she slashes her wrists in the bathtub. The dark mood is enhanced by the almost constant patter of rain.

Katja’s theory that the bombing was a neo-Nazi racist crime is confirmed by her friend and lawyer, Danilo (Denis Moschitto). In the next segment of the film, two suspects, Andre and Edda Moller (Ulrich Brandhoff and Hanna Hisldorf), stand trial for the murder of Nuri and Rocco. They remain silent during the contentious cross-examinations, but Andre’s father is vocal in incriminating him and apologizing for his son’s “wicked” and “stupid” crime.

It seems like an open-and-shut case until a witness from Greece absolves the Mollers of complicity in the bombing, claiming they had already checked into his hotel when it took place. Danilo, however, casts grave doubts on his credibility, pointing out he’s a member of Golden Dawn, a Greek neo-Nazi political party.

The Mollers’ aggressive attorney further muddies the waters by suggesting that Katja was under the influence of drugs when she supposedly saw Edda Moller at the scene of the crime on the day of the explosion.

The complexity of the case is such that no one can be sure of the outcome. But this much is certain: justice and law are not necessarily synonymous.

Akin, a skillful director, keeps viewers on edge, and Kruger turns in a masterful performance in this hard-hitting movie.