Written and Directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz.
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Edgar Ramírez, Clémence Poésy, Matthias Schweighöfer, Bella Ramsey, Géza Röhrig, Karl Markovics, Alicia von Rittberg, Vica Kerekes, and Ed Harris.
The story of a group of Jewish Boy Scouts who worked with the French Resistance to save the lives of ten thousand orphans during World War II.
As Resistance builds toward the climax, Marcel Marceau’s (Jesse Eisenberg putting on a French accent to the best of his abilities and joining the World War II resistance) love interest and fellow member of the resistance Emma (Clémence Poésy) get one final quiet moment where she reminds him that when they met, he was all about himself and his art (mining and painting) before looking after Jewish orphans and applying his talents to a higher cause. By this point, he was in the middle of becoming a legendary smuggler of these aforementioned orphans, but unfortunately for writer and director Jonathan Jakubowicz (Hands of Stone), the actual character growth is lost in translation among multiple time skips (force-fed with textual history lessons along the way causing one to wonder if the ending credits are going to roll 40 minutes in) and an assortment of supporting characters that either take away from focusing on Marcel or don’t add as much to the narrative as it feels like they should.
Resistance is one of those well-meaning biopics where its filmmaker (in this case, Jonathan Jakubowicz) is so fascinated with the entire life of its subject, that the script doesn’t have the sense to pick one defining aspect and hone in on that. There’s a great deal to enjoy in the first 40 minutes, whether it be from Marcel’s Jewish father directly opposing his artistic ambitions in favor of pursuing a more practical job to live comfortably (this dynamic gets turned on its head somewhat in the second act, but considering how all over the place the movie is, the subplot doesn’t have the impact it should), Marcel swooning over Emma and gunning for her affection, or his miming routine that catches on with the orphans and quickly becomes one of their only resources of entertainment and happiness among such upended lives. At one point, a character says Marcel only takes a liking to the children because they are the only ones not laughing at his Charlie Chaplin impressions and clown routine, which disappointingly ends up being another undercut story element.
However, the early scenes of Marcel performing for the children are indeed endearing, setting up a number of possibilities and dynamics for these characters to develop. As mentioned before, Resistance craves the whole pie, meaning 40 minutes later Marcel is joining the French resistance and somewhat parting ways with a young teenager named Elsbeth (Bella Ramsey) that is initially presented as a much larger part of the film, and maybe was in a possibly existent extended cut (especially considering the prologue depicts the grim demise of her parents alongside her traumatized reactions).
This is also where Resistance introduces its primary antagonist Klaus Barbie (Matthias Schweighöfer), a high-ranking Nazi determined to eradicate the Jews at the cost of losing his own humanity, with no disregard for the rift it causes between him and his wife and their newborn child. He is not necessarily a fully formed character which might be a good thing; there is no reason to explore him beyond surface value, but the result is something of a bootleg Hans Landa without the sickening charm. This is made all the more clear by a relatively effective torture sequence that would carry more weight if we cared about any of these characters.
The longer Resistance goes on it’s easy to actively grow tired of it; the movie doesn’t evolve, it just goes forward showing key events without any character or emotional context. Thankfully, there are a handful of times segments during the final act (namely an encounter with Marcel under investigation by Klaus featuring a brilliantly written double meaning dialogue exchange) where the escape is fully on. If the rest of the movie had been constructed to focus on more of what’s actually important, there would have even been reasons to cry at a few moments during the finale. As such, Resistance is well-made and hits all the right notes on the entertainment front, but the narrative is bungled by tackling way too much of one incredible man’s life.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com