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May 6, 2020

Resistance (2020) --- “He Saved Their Lives In Silence”


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Hello, Movie Buffs!
     Written and directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz (Hands of Stone, Fugitives),  and inspired by the life of Marcel Marceau, Resistance (2020) is a revolutionary tale of a selfless act that would forever change countless lives for years to come. Before being known as the world's most famous mime and "master of silence" Marcel Marceau (Jesse Eisenberg), he was first known as Marcel Mangel, an aspiring French-Jewish actor who works at his father’s butcher shop, paints murals for his plays, and likes to impersonate Charlie Chaplin at a local cabaret. Through his cousin Georges (Géza Röhrig), Marcel gets the opportunity to put his acting skills to the ultimate test: teach orphaned Jewish Children how to survive in the horrifying reality of the Holocaust. Soon Marcel, his brother Alain (Félix Moati), and a few others (Clémence Poésy and Vica Kerekes) join the French Resistance as a way to fight back. But after the complete occupation of France and a devastating death, Marcel decides that the best way to combat the Nazis is by saving as many children as possible by helping them get to Switzerland. “The best way to resist is to survive.” - Marcel Marceau. 
     For writer-director Jonathan Jakubowicz, WWII films are more than just another war genre, they are incredibly personal, especially since he lost over four hundred family members during the Holocaust. Jakubowicz’s Resistance is a handsomely crafted labor of love that is more of a somber tale of defiance against the Nazis than an action-packed war film. While staying true to the source material and being very much a unique film, Resistance pays homage to films that have come before, like Schindler’s List (1993), The Pianist (2002), and even The Zookeeper's Wife (2017). The film’s title suggests two options: take revenge or survive. As mentioned earlier Marcel’s answer to fighting back against the Nazis is, The best way to resist is to survive.” And he uses art to teach the children how to survive, not in a giving hope kind of way but in learning practical techniques to survive. When the film needs to be grim it features intense scenes captured with fast-moving track shots, tense moments, and sudden outbursts of violence. The quick changes allow for the film to express the constant and unrelenting danger that the characters face even when it seems they are safe. But while the characters encounter violence throughout the course of the film, violence is never accepted as the appropriate revenge. It’s a timely message that demonstrates that even in a world of hate, compassion and love will always win. Even the tiniest acts of compassion performed by ordinary individuals can be seen as some of the most significant acts in the world because these silent gestures carry their own power or resistance. 
     Despite the often over-wrought theatrical and socially awkward performances he has played in the past, here Jesse Eisenberg (The Art of Self Defence, Zombieland: Double Tap) proves to be perfectly cast as Marcel Marceau. His flourishes, theatrics, earnestness, and socially-awkward nature are perfectly suited for a character who gives into theatrics in order to escape the horrors of the world and is socially awkward when he has to interact with other people outside of his theatrics. But at the same time, Eisenberg delicately balances on the narrative's emotional tightrope by carefully inserting moments of either joy or sadness whenever necessary. His interactions with the children are delightful because he understands the importance of a child embracing the wonders of their childhood but he also understands that their lives are at risk too. Even during tense scenes he still manages to lighten the mood and bring the film back into focus. It is a sweet and thoughtful performance of earnest heroism. Matthias Schweighöfer's (You Are Wanted) wildly intense performance of the ruthless Gestapo agent and the “Butcher of Lyon” Klaus Barbie was terrifyingly captivating in every scene he's in. And while he regularly displays monstrous acts, his vendetta is not against Marceau specifically but rather he acts as a physical embodiment of Nazism’s evil. However, there were times when his performance seemed to be a bit much for the story. Clémence Poésy’s (Genius, Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows) performance Emma, Marcel’s love interest is both magnificent and heartbreaking, while Bella Ramsey (Judy, Game of Thrones) as Elsbeth continues to impress long after she blew us away with her Game of Thrones performance as Lyanna Mormont. The rest of the cast members - Géza Röhrig as Marceau's cousin Georges, Félix Moati as Marcel’s brother Alain, Vica Kerekes as Mila, and Ed Harris (Westworld, Top Gun: Maverick) as General George S. Patton - gave solid performances, each doing their own part to help carry the story.
     Overall, Resistance (2020) is a handsomely crafted labor of love that is more of a somber tale of defiance against the Nazis than an action-packed war film. From beginning to end it is clear that writer-director Jonathan Jakubowicz is incredibly passionate about Marcel's story and the accomplishments of the French Resistance. The story is captivating and the message is clear, no matter how bad things get, no matter how evil the world might seem, compassion and love will always triumph over hate. It is a film that focuses on genuine heroes and their everyday events, showcasing how their quiet and sometimes silent acts of courage carry their own power of resistance. In Marcel Marceau’s own words, “The best way to resist is to survive.”

Final Vote --- 7.5 of 10 stars

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