Review by Sean Boelman
Written and directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz, Resistance is a new WWII thriller hoping to bring light to some unsung and unorthodox heroes of the war. Yet despite how extraordinary the real-life people who inspired the film were, the movie is so conventional in its execution that it ends up feeling painfully dull.
The film tells the story of an aspiring Jewish actor who joins the French resistance and works to save the lives of thousands of orphans. The subgenre of WWII movies is certainly oversaturated, so while it is refreshing to see a film that deals with a different front of the war, the story too often falls back on the formula of the genre to be overly impressive.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the movie is its lackluster pacing. Clocking in at right around two hours, the film isn’t particularly lengthy for a genre that is traditionally filled with grand epics, but there are still portions of the movie that feel unnecessary. The chief of these is the film’s framing device, a speech being given by a military leader (played by the criminally underused Ed Harris) telling the story to inspire his troops.
There is a very positive message in the movie — that anyone can be a hero — but this is a very common trope in this type of film. The more interesting ideas that the movie has are those that explore the idea of hope and how the protagonist gives hope to the children in a time when they so desperately need it. This uplifting portion of the film is what makes the movie stand out.
The film doesn’t do a great job of developing his characters. Although the story is compelling and the characters are obviously very likable, not much is done to develop them outside of their heroism. Arguably the biggest disappointment of the movie is that, even though Marcel Merceau eventually became a famous actor, Jakubowicz did not lean into this as an element of humanization.
Jesse Eisenberg is certainly the biggest name in the cast, and while his performance isn’t terrible, it is nowhere near as strong as some of his finest work. Eisenberg is playing the same type of charming but socially awkward character that he is too often typecast in, and so it ultimately becomes somewhat hard to believe him as the character. Edgar Ramírez and Géza Röhrig have supporting roles but don’t make much of a splash.
On a technical level, Jakubowicz’s film is totally competent, but there is nothing spectacular about the movie. The cinematography and production design both do the bare minimum of periodizing the film, but the movie still doesn’t have a particularly unique visual style. With a more dynamic look, the film could have accommodated for its narrative shortcomings.
There are some interesting ideas in play in Resistance, but the movie is way too conventional to be particularly memorable. Still, older audiences who enjoy films of the genre will find enough by-the-book thrills for the movie to be moderately enjoyable.
Resistance hits VOD on March 27.