“Resistance”

In "My Best Friend's Wedding," There's this exchange between Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz about in reference to "Michael," the man both of them apparently seem to love. Julia's character is talking about dessert at a fancy restaurant and Creme Brulée is on the menu -  but what you really want is something more along the lines of Jell-O. That just fills the spot, nothing too sophisticated -  just light and refreshing.

Julianne Potter: Creme Brulée can never be Jell-O. YOU could never be Jell-O. 
Kimmy Wallace: I HAVE to be Jell-O! 
Julianne Potter: You're never gonna be Jell-O!

There are just some Sunday nights when all you want is just a good World War II era story. A nice period flick to immerse yourself in as you unwind from a busy weekend and let your mind wonder in the world gone by. Sometimes you don't' want something heavy like "The Pianist,"  Saving Private Ryan or Schindler's List . You just want an adventure story that's set during World War II and you're too tired to read an Alan Furst novel.

"Resistance" was never going to be Creme Brulée. "Resistance" is Jell-O.

The movie opens somewhere in Belgium with the local citizens mulling around the crash sight of an American plane, trying to do "something" before the Germans from the local garrison show up. Like any good local resistance, the locals try and find survivors, over-looking the other fun stuff spread around the debris field like code books, weapons and ammunition, and other equipment.

One of the residents searching the crash sight is a young man in his early teens, Jean Benoit (portrayed by Antoine Van Lierde.) Through some early dialog we learn that Jean's father is a Nazi sympathizer and Jean himself is accused of being a fellow rat along with his old man. He's is asked to leave by one of his peers, fearing that Jean would tattle on the rest of them. As Jean walks further away from the crash scene he finds Maj. Theodore 'Ted' Brice (Bill Paxton) - the lone survivor of the crash. Jean puts Ted in a wheel barrel and brings him to the Daussois Farm in hopes someone there can help him back to health.

Henri Daussois (Philippe Volter), one of the leaders of the local resistance, and his wife Claire (Julia Ormond) are a loveless couple with struggles of their own. Claire has no desire or want for her sloppy husband, despite his bravery against the Nazi occupation.. Things in their marriage are made worse with Ted recovering in the secret room next to their own bedroom that's accessed through the wardrobe -  perhaps a nod to C.S. Lewis? There's no chance of romance with a banged up and bruised GI in the secret hide-a-way.

Henri's life is further complicated by the local resistance group as they try to reach an agreement on what to do with the crashed plane, the code books that might still be aboard, and Ted -  all the while planning to strike back against the Nazi's and make life hard for the invaders by blowing up bridges and other targets..

Further along into the movie, Daussois is off on a mission with his group of resistance fighters, Jean is starting to learn more about what a weasel his father is and how his mom is trying to do the right thing by undermining the Nazi's while working at local market. Jean's character is made more interesting as he's an essential part of a new family created by Claire and Ted who have become lovers in Henri's absence.

The situation begins to fall apart rapidly after one of the resistance fighters shoots up the Nazis searching the Ted's crashed plane. Ted and Claire become more bold and go out on a "date" in another town and risk getting caught. The Nazis retaliate against the village and hang a half dozen people in a local barn, all picked at random. Perhaps the most memorable line is spoken by Jean when he describes the scene - 

"They look like they're dancing, but they can't find the floor"

The situation gets even worse (if you can imagine) after Henri betrays his values and the things he was fighting for out of jealousy and perhaps righteous indignation. Because of his actions, people suffer and die, the local resistance is struck a near-fatal blow and Nazi solders kill, maim and torture everyone involved with the local cell and aided in hiding Ted. The only one who seems to go unharmed in the Nazi's wrath is Jean, who seems to be observing all the events of this motion picture for posterity.

Plot Holes Big Enough To Fly A Bomber-Used-As-A-Spy-Plane Through.

There are a lot of plot holes in this film that are just beyond distracting. There are a lot of times while watching this film I was "taken out of the story" [that moment when you're no longer engrossed in the story or the plot and you become aware of yourself and what you're watching] and I started to think about if something like this would really happen.

The three most noticeable ones involve the bomber that was used by the US Military, the notion of a Marquis freedom fighter leaving his wife alone with an American pilot (albeit wounded) and not asking or using his experience or training on some of their raids against the Nazis, and the aforementioned pilot risking capture by taking someone else's wife out for a night on the town...

Second, the plane that was used by the military that was flown during the mission that ended abruptly when it was shot down was, according to a few other internet sources was a B-17 bomber converted for reconnaissance missions. According to a few websites, no B-17 was used for that until after World War II. I can't find any evidence that B-17's were used DURING the war for such purposes.

What ever the plane they used and if it was historically accurate or not really isn't the issue, though... it's that the Marquis  resistance had to go BACK to find the vital equipment and code books that were still among the wreckage. Nobody bothered to pick any of this stuff up the first time they were there, right after the crash? Even if you don't know the language written and spoken by the crew of this aircraft, wouldn't you have picked up anything you could get your hands on and keep it out of the hands of your occupiers and enemy? Wouldn't you have picked up anything that looked important? Granted, having to go back to the plane and recover the codebooks and equipment - or at least make sure it's destroyed - is a major plot point - the "McGuffin" if you like. But there were moments when this flawed plot point was illogical and distracting.

Third, If you were having intimacy issues with your wife and she doesn't seem interested in you any more... or never did, are you really sure you want to leave her alone with a handsome American Pilot who's she's nursing back to health? Three words for you, Henri - Florence Nightingale Syndrome. If you were Henri and a solder or airman with combat experience literally fell into your lap, wouldn't you use that experience to your advantage? Wouldn't a Maguis resistance fighter want to use ever available resource in an effort to prove to your estranged wife that you're worthy of her affections? Or did he think that if he succeeded in a strike against The Nazi's with out his help, that she would love him more and find the strong, virile man he wished he could be?

The notion that the local Marquis didn't want to use the American Pilot in some of their raids or ask him for leadership or planning skills asks a lot of question that never seem to get involved. Was this a "pride" thing, trying to prove to the American (and the rest of the world) that they were capable of taking care of themselves?

There were a lot of issues with this movie that left me asking questions, answers that would have been entertaining to explore if this had been just a few minutes longer.

"Resistance" Has It's Benefits.

This is not all that bad of a movie. There are some aspects that make it worth while, such as the costumes, set design, cinematography, and the interaction between Julia Ormond and Bill Paxton.

The costumes, set design and cinematography all make this movie feel some how "real," like any good period film we feel transported back into that era. It's not a romanticized version of World War II with-in the civilian resistance who wear perfect hero costumes and over-the-top sets. It literally feels as if it was filmed with people wearing thread-bare clothes in the oppressed, occupied, and over-cast regions of Europe (the story takes place in Belgium, filmed in The Netherlands.)

Then there's just the chemistry between Bill Paxton and Julia Ormond that works for this film but would have been a failure in any other... I'm not sure if what we saw was good acting or a genuine affection mixed with awkwardness due to the subject matter of the script - since we are still dealing with a woman cheating on husband who's off fighting the Nazi's virtually bare handed. There's something to be said about Mr. Paxton's performance as an American pilot recovering from a near fatal disaster falling in love with his care-giver who happens to be married to aforementioned freedom fighter. Mr. Paxton captures that awkwardness perfectly...

... Julia Ormond's portrayal of her character seems to indicate a greater depth then the rest of the woman around her. Her slightly different accent and mannerisms would indicate that she's been in better circumstances and she married under her class for mysterious and desperate reasons. She seems to be a slight out-cast, not a real member of the resistance, all the while she's holding back a bit of bitterness. There's a mystery with Claire, but it's never explored much less solved before the film is over. This was either pure genius, a happy accident or the unintended consequence of casting such a wonderful actress.

If you're able to look pas

t this films few flaws - and I'll admit that it has more then a few - this is a wonderful film to just enjoy. Take in the atmosphere of the film and just let it happen while sipping an inexpensive bottle of wine with your spouse. For most people it's not going to be that memorable or stay with you for long periods of time, It's the perfect sorbet for cleaning your cinematic palette while waiting for the next flick to hold you over or wind-down after a long weekend.

 

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