Posted by Jen: 3 stars
Director: Stephen Poliakoff
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Clemence Poesy, Matthew Goode
This was a PBS movie about a soldier in WWI. It intertwines his experiences in the war with a love affair he’d had with a married woman just before. It sounded like everything I want in a movie – love, violence, a period piece where some friends become enemies and some enemies become friends and everyone’s a little richer for the experience. But, as in most cases, it sounded too good to be true.
One thing that was very annoying was that the camera was always zooming in for a close up of Stephen, the main character’s, face. Seriously, this was shown at least once every ten minutes:
Scary. It seemed like every time something traumatic happened, every time they wanted to make a subtle point, close up of the face. When he was starting to fall in love with the lovely Isabelle, close up of the face. When her leg brushed against his when they were in a boat together, close up of his face, close up of her face, close up of his face. When he’s told to crawl into a mine (I don’t know why they were doing this, maybe to look for Germans or something?) close up of his face. I’m not sure how that’s supposed to be subtle or even convey any emotion, but either way it was weird and unsettling.
For the second half of the movie, the war half, there was barely any action. WWI was total devastation on a level never seen up to that time. They only show a handful of men dying, even when they’re in the front line. There’s hardly any grenades, hardly any gunfire, and we only see a handful of German soldiers, and that’s mainly after the war has ended. It seemed like the war was more of a vessel to set up flashbacks to his doomed romance whereas the two should have complimented each other with such a stark contrast.
And he was killed like three times and came back from the dead. Seriously, the first time he was shot in the shoulder and everyone thought he was dead. He was even put with bodies awaiting burial when suddenly HIS EYES OPENED OMG and he was really alive. I hate when movies do that. The movie’s not even half over, he’s the main character, there’s no way he’s really dead. And I’m supposed to believe no one checked for a pulse? He was a lieutenant, too (or some such that they never explained other than him leading the other men around), not just a regular soldier. Then there was another time when his group was at the frontline and he fell unconscious into a ditch. THEN SUDDENLY HE GOT UP OMG, he wasn’t dead. And the third time a grenade went off and even though he was in a big group of other men, he was the only one to walk away unscratched. Give me a break.
One other thing is that we don’t really get to know the main character except he does this, then does that, and reacts this way when something happens. Is he only defined through his affair and the war? Who was he before either of these happened? What were his goals and dreams in life? And the girl, she was married to a man she hated and adopted two of his kids. Why? This was nearly three hours long and there was so much more I wanted to know. Especially because of the reason why his love affair ended. It seemed completely unrealistic and slightly ludicrous to me. If I knew more about these characters, it might have been somewhat feasible, but then again maybe not.
Considering this was a movie about a WWI soldier, this moved really slowly. Most movies that are 3 hours long usually contain a lot of stupid bullshit that adds nothing to the plot. This was one of those. It was based on a book that I haven’t read, so I don’t know how authentic it was, but in a way, I’d like to read it. There was so much more I wanted to know about the characters which could have been difficult to convey onto the silver screen. This movie wasn’t a complete loss, though. For the most part, it kept my attention, but it might not have been for the reasons they would want.