Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jesse Eisenberg, Ed Harris, Edgar Ramírez, Clémence Poésy, Matthias Schweighöfer, Bella Ramsey, Géza Röhrig, Karl Markovics, Félix Moati, Alicia von Rittberg, Vica Kerekes
Written by: Jonathan Jakubowicz
Directed by: Jonathan Jakubowicz
MPAA Rating: R for some violence
Running Time: 120
Date: 03/27/2020

Resistance (2020)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Mime or Reason

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I confess, this is not the kind of movie I usually like, but while watching at home during the COVID-19 "shelter-in-place" order, I found myself won over.

Jonathan Jakubowicz's Resistance tells the story of famous French-born mime Marcel Marceau (Jesse Eisenberg), who became a hero of World War II, rescuing dozens of Jewish orphans from the Nazis.

The film's first half contains many of those old, familiar beats that make up so many biopics, but it soon settles in and confidently becomes a gloriously old-fashioned good-vs.-evil entertainment.

The movie even opens and closes with a rousing, flashback-introducing speech from General Patton (Ed Harris) himself!

Marcel is a scene-stealer, effortlessly winning the heart of the girl he loves (Clémence Poésy, best remembered as Fleur Delacour in the Harry Potter movies), and fooling the sadistic villain, infamous Nazi Klaus Barbie (Matthias Schweighöfer).

In one lovely sequence, Marcel calms a room full of rambunctious children with a bit of mime, pretending to flutter away when they blow on him, like a flame atop a candle.

Eisenberg clearly put in a hefty amount of work to simply be able to copy in a few scenes what Marceau spent a lifetime mastering.

His deft, poetic performance recalls Robert Downey Jr.'s Oscar-nominated turn in Chaplin (especially because this Marceau is definitely inspired by Chaplin's cinematic mime).

But Resistance is hardly a typical A-to-Z biopic. It's a magnificent, heroic fiction, designed more to inspire than to educate. Facts have been cheerfully bent to serve the story; for example, in real-life, Marcel would have been around 16 at the start of the war, and Eisenberg is in his mid-30s.

It's mildly annoying, also, that this French story has been told in English.

But director Jakubowicz (Secuestro Express, Hands of Stone) goes big, providing several sweeping, gliding tracking shots, deep-focused and highlighting rich, detailed set designs, whether in a swanky hotel or an underground hideout.

Surely, Resistance would have been better served on the big screen, but even at home, it provides big smiles and bittersweet heartstring tugs.

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