German provocateur Michael Haneke operates in a vein similar to the villain of Code Unknown’s movie-within-the-movie The Collector, trapping his characters in meticulously constructed, confining scenarios in order to punish them. The difference, however, is that whereas the nefarious Collector’s plot against star Anne (Juliette Binoche) is seemingly perpetrated for no reason, Haneke has a point to make: namely, to slam the bourgeoisie for being selfish and cloistered in a cocoon of wealth and privilege, and to lament the plight of the working/immigrant population who suffer indignities at the hands of the social elite. It’s a class-conscious thematic thrust that defines nearly all of Haneke’s work, and here is most forcefully dramatized during an intro scene involving a black man’s attempts to force Anne’s son to apologize to the beggar he callously insulted, and in a climactic Métro confrontation between Anne and an Arab teen that culminates in a shocking bit of spitting. Yet whereas the director’s sterile formalism (his narrative fragmented into unedited single scenes) and expert orchestration of slowly building tension produces a voyeuristic chill that’s hard to shake, his socio-political condemnations assume an aggressively hectoring tone, so that – even during beautifully wrought moments such as Anne and war photojournalist boyfriend Georges’ grocery store trip, in which irrepressible emotions (anger, disgust, passion) momentarily burst forth from trivial discussions about wine and rice – Code Unknown feels frustratingly pedantic. The intro’s deaf kids may speak to the story’s larger portrait of communication failures, but more than his characters, it’s Haneke himself – content, in film after film, to make the same didactic denunciations of the upper crust – who seems unable to say something compellingly novel.