Jesse Eisenberg as Marcel Marceau
Ed Harris as General George S. Patton
Karl Markovics as Charles Mangel
Édgar Ramirez as Sigmund
Clémence Poésy as Emma
Matthias Schweighöfer as Klaus Barbie
Bella Ramsey as Elsbeth
Géza Röhrig as Georges Loinger
Written and directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz
The World War II drama genre is a well-worn area of exploration with most films utilizing the opportunity to ensure audiences are reminded of the awful acts committed by the Nazis during their European reign of terror, namely The Holocaust, but lately rarely takes the chance to focus on those who sought to make a difference in a captivating effort. The latest entry into the genre, Resistance, may not be the most original affair set in the past, but it is one of the more rewarding and interesting attempts at telling an important story in one of the most awful periods of time in history.
Set in Nazi-occupied France, the film is the first feature adaptation of the early years of Marcel Marceau (née Mangel), a French theater performer with initially no interest in getting involved in the war. However, after witnessing the horrible acts being committed by the Germans, he chooses to put his dreams on hold and utilize them for good as he is enlisted by the French Jewish Resistance to help forge passports for orphaned Jewish children to help get them to the safety of Switzerland. In his time helping transport the various children to safety over the years, he ended up saving the lives of hundreds of children before going on to become the world’s most famous mime.
The story does well to highlight the heartwarming and harrowing efforts made by Marceau and the French Jewish Resistance to help save the lives of numerous orphaned children throughout World War II, however, it does also fall under the weight of its own ambitions. In highlighting Marceau’s talents and how he utilized them to give the children hope, it helps liven the plot and the legendary mime’s future as an entertainer, but it also feels like it’s actively working against the other half of its story: a Nazi escape story.
The prison break nature of the plot is undoubtedly well-crafted, proving to be a thrilling and pulse-pounding game of cat and mouse when the resistance group finds themselves on the run or face-to-face with the enemy, but in pairing it with the more dramatic and kinder-natured exploration of Marceau’s talents, it feels like a tonal mismatch. Finding hope in times of distress, namely in the midst of genocide, is very appropriate and key and factoring that into a film about the subject is sometimes needed, but the balance in this project feels very mismanaged.
In times of mismatched tones, however, the film finds itself carried by a stellar performance from Eisenberg in a nice change of pace for the Oscar-nominated star. While normally best known for his work in more mean-natured and arrogant roles such as Mark Zuckerberg, Lex Luthor or J. Daniel Atlas, which he describes as a “fun thing” to do as a “timid performer,” it feels refreshing to see a more kind-hearted turn for Eisenberg, who he envelops with ease. With clear respect for Marceau as an artist and as a resistance fighter, Eisenberg is thoroughly compelling throughout the film, helping carry every scene to captivation even if the plot seems to be stalling out.
Overall, Resistance may not be the strongest effort from start to finish in the World War II genre, but in looking to humanize and spotlight its legendary subject and features a fantastic performance from Eisenberg and thrilling moments of espionage and poker faces, it adds up to an entertaining and rewarding film.
Resistance is set to hit digital and VOD platforms on Friday. You can also rent the movie by clicking here!
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