Beginning in Munich 1938 the viewer is introduced to Nazis being evil to Jews, and we have the introduction of the Final Girl. Then a fast forward to Nurenburg 1945, where a very few Nazis got their comeuppance, and the introduction by no less than General Patton, of a mime. This mime was vastly famous when I was a kid, because he was on television a lot. He even had a record. Yeah. It was a best seller. Personally, I always had an icky feeling when watching Marceau work on tv. I don’t know if it’s because he was butt ugly, or something deeper that I didn’t understand as a child.
Back to the story in 1938 and the introduction of the man who would become the world famous mime. He wasn’t yet Marceau, but Marcel Mangel. Ironically, it would be the Nazis that caused him to choose the name that would become so famous. He’s a small time artist who has a dream about working on the stage. Slowly he is drawn into the resistance against the terrible Nazi threat.
There were some odd things about the movie that didn’t quite work for me. Nothing major, but I kept making notes about small things that bothered me. Right off the bat I noticed the color timing is odd. The film is not in a “natural” color, but I’m not sure what the purpose is in making everything look a little flat, with a bit of color leached. Are they trying to match the predominate color of films of the day? Because if that was so they would need to go super saturated mega color instead. Did they want viewers to identify the story as set in the far past because everything looks faded? I think the old cars, the 1930s clothes and hair, and you know, the Nazis, might give a viewer a clue that it’s a period movie. I know it’s a small thing to grouse about, but it was one of several small things that irritated me and small things add up.
A big problem is casting Jesse Eisenberg as Marceau, because much as I have enjoyed him in other movies he couldn’t mime his way out of a wet paper bag. He was perfect at Bip the (Bumbling and Not Talented) Clown performing on a tiny stage in a 1930s brothel, but his grand performance at the end that was supposed to melt the heart of battle hardened US troops was embarrassingly bad. Along the way the film showed him supporting the bravery and melting the hearts of frightened children and a hot young woman (Clemence Poesy). Even then, his miming was clutzy and forced. Actors spend months learning fighting skills for ten seconds of film time. Couldn’t he have spent more than ten minutes watching YouTube to prep for this movie?
The worst thing is that the movie, overall, is boring. It shows one of the worst of the barbarians in his torture chamber, and that scene is truly awful. Taken as a whole, though, the film is dull emotionally. I don’t know if that’s the because of the subject matter, Marceau, or because the filmmakers can’t portray one of the most horrific times in human history in at least an engaging way. They try really hard to make the viewer love the characters by putting them in dangerous situations that they heroically overcome, or put them in heartwarming situations they handle in a way that’s supposed to make you go all gooey and say Awwwwww. It didn’t work for me, but it may for you. A viewer should know right up front that they are going to see a story about a famous period of time, so no surprises there, and that they should be witnessing evil incarnate and the people who resisted were heroic and prepared to die in the service of goodness.
One of the reasons I never quite got behind the hero characters is that their motivations are often unclear. Sure, they’re fighting evil, but in the day people didn’t have a totally clear idea how evil. There was no 24/7 news cycle. Were they heavily recruited? Because I only saw a little recruitment. Did they love children so much they showed them how to climb trees to win the war? Were they trying to impress a woman? Because Clemence Poesy. The truly awful things that was shown before the gang was assembled and kicking Nazi ass didn’t actually happen to the main characters.
I didn’t hate this film, and I think it is the kind of thing people who don’t understand the original Nazis should watch. I just really wish it had been a better movie overall because it’s important for people to see this time in history and understand the magnitude of the evil and destruction wrought, without turning it into a crowd pleasing comedy. A film that is boring or fuzzy headed won’t bring the viewer along as well and that’s a shame.
RESISTANCE Trailer (2020) Jesse Eisenberg WWII Movie HD