Cinema Review: Resistance | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, July 14th, 2020  


Studio: IFC Films
Directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz

Mar 25, 2020 Web Exclusive
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Give Jesse Eisenberg credit— he mostly pulls off a role that easily could’ve been a disaster. Resistance, the true story of a would-be world famous mime joining the French Resistance, and helping Holocaust orphans to smile as they flee the Nazis, should be schmaltzy at best. At worst, it would’ve been a crass disaster.

Yet Eisenberg (of The Social Network and Zombieland fame) comes across more like a high wire acrobat than a circus clown, successfully balancing pathos and an effort to give children wholesome laughs. The latter lands with audiences as bittersweet, rather than an effort to make viewers chuckle or, worse still, manipulate our emotions ala the older WWII melodrama Life Is Beautiful.

While Eisenberg doesn’t quite pull off a French accent, he clearly did some mime training. He looks quite convincing while silently acting out slapstick for children dearly in need of a reprieve. The Nazi tracking those youngsters in urban France, and later through the frigid Alps, is as horrific as Eisenberg’s want-to-be clown is tender and artsy. Played by German actor Matthias Schweighöfer, Klaus Barbie is a villain for the ages. The real life Gestapo functionary was notorious for torturing prisoners. In Resistance, Schweighöfer gives him haughty air of self righteousness as he prowls, shrieks, intimidates and commits what would now be a particularly vicious hate crime.

The cast is rounded out by Clémence Poésy as fellow French Resistance fighter Emma, who is devastated by her encounter with Barbie. Édgar Ramírez, who earned raves a decade ago in the French-German biopic series Carlos, is sadly blander this go around as Marcel’s elder, burlier brother. And while Ed Harris has second billing on the call sheet as renowned general George S. Patton, his part here is little more than a cameo (though his craggy face and crisp demeanor do suit the role).

Aside from Eisenberg, Resistance’s most memorable talent is director and screenwriter Jonathan Jakubowicz, who made a splash in 2005 with the movie Secuestro Express. The Venezuelan director’s Polish-Jewish ancestry clearly made Resistance a passion project. He gives the film a tasteful air that makes the dangers vivid, but rarely in clear view (much less gratuitous).  Accurate period details like curvy elongated cruisers (that prove to be indispensible getaway cards), along with the Resistance’s drab wardrobe and the crisp Gestapo garb, all make the atmosphere thoroughly authentic. Some viewers might find the plot plodding and lacking in action and grandeur. But Resistance’s unique protagonist and nuanced interpretation of touchy subject matter make it a boon for history buffs, or anyone in need of a bittersweet yet triumphant true story.


Author rating: 7/10

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