Dousing us alternately in treacle and ice water, Jonathan Jakubowicz’s World War II drama, “Resistance,” strains to discover a cohesive tone. Outlining the true story of how the young Marcel Marceau, the renowned French actor and mime, helped Jewish orphans survive Nazi-occupied France, the film goals to wrestle uplift from tragedy.
While Marceau (performed by a miscast Jesse Eisenberg) could be the film’s most novel hook, he’s additionally certainly one of its least compelling characters. Watched disapprovingly by his father, a Jewish butcher, Marceau (born Marcel Mangel) would quite carry out in Strasbourg’s cabaret golf equipment than chop meat. But when his politically energetic cousin (Geza Rohrig) persuades him to assist take care of a gaggle of orphans rescued from Germany, his childlike clowning is a giant hit together with his traumatized expenses.
The downside is that Marceau’s whimsical makes an attempt to entertain the youngsters dilute the rising ambiance of menace on which the story relies upon. This is most damaging when the motion strikes to the south of France and we’re launched extra totally to the easily sadistic Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie (Matthias Schweighöfer). We’ve already seen this debonair satan gleefully pummel patrons of a homosexual membership in Berlin; now he’s being serenaded by youngsters singing “Ave Maria” whereas he coldly slaughters captives within the empty swimming pool of the aptly named Hotel Terminus in Lyon.
These shifts from sugary to surprising are jarring. Yet although Barbie’s operatic violence leans perilously near parody, Schweighöfer’s urbane-monster routine is wickedly diverting. Much extra so than watching our halfhearted hero moon over his light crush, Emma (an affecting Clémence Poésy), or educate the orphans to cover by climbing bushes. An encounter on a practice between the 2 males — Marceau, now a member of the French resistance, is evacuating youngsters to the Alps — owes everything of its suspense to Schweighöfer’s flickering modifications of expression. He would have been very good in silent motion pictures.
Bracketed by weirdly redundant scenes of Marceau being celebrated by General George S. Patton (Ed Harris) and his troops, “Resistance” feels disjointed and dated. Lukewarm romantic subplots play like cursory afterthoughts, inserted to pander to viewers expectations, and supporting characters are confusingly ill-defined and disconnected from each other. There is little question that Marceau’s wartime exploits — he was additionally a gifted forger who would go on to work with U.S. intelligence companies — deserve a biopic. This one, although, is simply too uncomfortably torn between his comedian abilities and the horrors towards which they had been deployed.