The latest dramatization of WWII to hit the screens, Resistance follows the story of a young man and his attempts to ferry Jewish children out of occupied France. Based on a harrowing true story, Resistance doesn’t shy away from portraying the harsh reality many endured during WWII.
Jesse Eisenberg is Marcel Marceau, a young aspiring Mime artist in Strasbourg, France. Son of a kosher butcher, Marcel’s dream is to be an artist and he pursues this with relentless self-centeredness. He is clunkily portrayed as the least likely person to willingly assist others – and this is undoubtedly reinforced by the miscasting of Eisenberg. While he warms to the role, Eisenberg’s attempts to embody the character seem slightly inauthentic. Coming to realize his unique skills could be of use to the growing French Resistance, Marcel embarks on a journey that takes him far from his artistic pursuits and flings him into a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the Gestapo.
Eisenberg is joined by a stellar cast, namely Bella Ramsey of Game of Thrones fame and German actor Matthias Schweighöfer, who tackles the task of portraying convicted war criminal Klaus Barbie with commendable talent. Clémence Poésy, Félix Moati, and Vica Kerekes also showcase immense skill in depicting both the fear and courage experienced by the brave souls who defied the German occupation.
Unfortunately, it’s unclear that Resistance is a biopic, an ode of appreciation to the “most important Mime of all time”. In fact, it wasn’t until the closing credits that I realized the film was meant to be focused on Marcel rather than the French resistance as a whole. This lack of clarity seeps through the entire film. There is a distinct sense that the film is an attempt at a full-throated reality that has unfortunately not been developed past the scatter-brained first draft. Promising storylines and interesting threads are routinely dropped in order to favor the main plot. Romances are hinted at to pique audience interest, but romantics will be left disappointed as the fledgling relationships between the main characters barely flare before being forgotten.
The film unfolds as a story told to a group of US soldiers tasked with the liberation of Europe from the Nazis. This book-ending of Marcel’s story seems very redundant, especially as it’s very easy to forget the opening once the story truly begins to intensify. For his efforts in leading hundreds of Jewish orphans to safety, and contributing to the rescue of thousands more, Marceau deserves a more traditional biopic that could truly laud his actions, rather than this wish-washy historical thriller.
Despite its flaws, Resistance is a film that creates tension and suspense that sits heavily in the back of your throat, and for that reason alone it’s worth viewing.
Resistance is currently available to rent from iTunes, Google Play, Sony (Playstation Network), Microsoft (Xbox Network), Foxtel PPV, Bigpond, Fetch & Quickflix.
This is the real story of Marcel Marceau’s days in the French Resistance.