War of Resistance, (a.k.a. Return to the Hiding Place), 2011.
Directed by Peter C. Spencer.
Starring John Rhys-Davies, Craig Robert Young, David Thomas Jenkins, Rachel Spencer Hewitt and Stass Klassen.
When a young resistance fighter witnesses atrocities towards the Jews, he's drawn into a web of espionage and clandestine activities. When he meets a young physics students and resistance journalist, Hans Poley, they embark on a hunt through underground tunnels, Gestapo hijacks and daring rescues.
There are two types of World War two films: the ones that show you the explosive battle on the frontlines and the ones that show you the cloak and dagger sneakery from behind the scenes. With the former, the focus is on the tension and the difficult moral choices the characters must make in order vanquish the Nazi menace. From these themes, we see a good amount of character development and a lot of carefully worded conversations when confronted by a helmeted German soldier. The line between the Hollywood style blockbusting of Saving Private Ryan and the edge of you seat covert flicks like Inglourious Basterds must never be crossed. War of Resistance happily skips over this line and knocks everything off the shelves whilst it does it.
Instead of the French resistance, we focus on the Dutch resistance. The film takes place in Holland during its Nazi occupation and focuses on a variety of students from the local university as they all join the underground resistance. Well, I say variety of characters; I had a monumental job trying to differentiate between one floppy haired rebel from the next. Or maybe their plan to protect their identity is to share the same melodramatic, two dimensional personality. From what I gather, the main character is called Hans. I remember this as I took not of his hair style and that pretty much helped me pick him out from the gaggle of fops.
Even though the film spans a dreadful two hours, the story could be summed up in a minute. Students join resistance after seeing that the Nazis plan to do away with the Jewish community. Cue various sabotage and rescue missions. It feels like a compilation of other films rather than one long piece of narrative. In between video game style missions, we’re subjected to long winded melodramatic dialogue that not even the inclusion of John Rhys-Davies could save. It took a long time to find this film online and it isn’t even listed on Mr Rhys-Davies IMDB page, which leads me to believe he did this as a favour to pay off some kind of debt. Gambling, maybe? Not surprising considering he’s the only person in the film that’s even trying.
Where do I begin describing how utter terrible the acting is? For a start, the accents keep resetting back to English as if they’re suffering from some kind of dialect fatigue. It’s probably a bad idea to get everyone to speak English with terrible Dutch accents. Maybe they wanted to save money by going faux-Dutch. I want to use the term overacting to describe the majority of the performances, but I think it barely scratches the surface, so I’ll just settle with stamping them with the words hollow and impenetrable. I could not side with any of the characters in any way possible. It was like watching a bunch of amateur soap actors trying to recreate Schindler’s List with no script or direction.
And don’t get me started on the action scenes. If you can tolerate green screen, bad camera angles, dizzy editing and the worst sound effects in existence, then clearly you’re one of the seventeen people in the world that would enjoy them. Even the gun shots sounded like a child clapping. The impression I got of this film is that they had a lot of ambition, but no direction, so they just picked scenes from other films and replicated them in the worst way possible. Even the evil Nazi officer was just a pound shop Hans Landa from Inglourious Basterds.
At the end of the film you’re reminded that this was based on real events and these were real people, as if it’s a way of making the film invulnerable of any criticism. It didn’t work on me Peter C. Spenner, I’m afraid. War of Resistance is long and drawn out piece of cringing melodrama that feels like a half arsed dedication to the brave members of the resistance in Holland.
Will Preston is a freelance writer from Portsmouth. He writes for various blogs (including his own website) and makes short films.
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