Holiday Movie Special – III

Rating: NNNNNQuiet horrorNO MAN'S LAND written and directed by Danis Tanovic, produced by Marc Baschet, Frederique Dumas-Zajdela, Cedomir Kolar,.

Rating: NNNNN

Quiet horror

NO MAN’S LAND written and directed by Danis Tanovic, produced by Marc Baschet, Frederique Dumas-Zajdela, Cedomir Kolar, with Branko Djuric, Rene Bitorajac, Filip Sovagovic, Georges Siatidis, Katrin Cartlidge and Simon Callow. 92 minutes. Opens Friday (December 21). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 77. Rating: NNNN

seven minutes into no man’s Land the first soldier is already trapped in the trench, and it looks like we’re in for one long siege story. But this film is smarter than that. It escalates by degrees.A relief squad gets lost in the night fog. Next morning they’ve been reduced to one standing soldier. Then the other side comes. Then there are two trapped soldiers and one wounded man lying on top of a rigged mine. Then come the UN bystanders then, inevitably, the media.

With each escalation, power shifts and dark ironies pile up.

No Man’s Land has the discipline of good theatre. The story is constructed with inspired craft: every piece fits, every scene builds on the last and sets up the next. And while it must have been hard to resist easy jabs at mendacity on all sides, Danis Tanovic mostly chooses a gentler tone.

One soldier reads the newspaper to the other and exclaims, “What a mess in Rwanda!”

The German mine expert is expected at 3:30, and, in the middle of a war zone shows up “bang on the dot.”

No Man’s Land can be pitched as a Balkan Catch 22, but it’s both more elegant and more affecting. Every scene, and the film as a whole, can work as an allegory of the Balkan wars — and perhaps of every protracted conflict.

But in every choice made, even in the sound design, Tanovic underlines how all this horror plays out on a quiet day in the country.

All in all, an effective antidote to the Playstation antics of Behind Enemy Lines.CBCharlotte’s webcharlotte Gray directed by Gillian Armstrong, written by Jeremy Brock, based on the novel by Sebastian Faulks, produced by Sarah Curtis and Douglas Rae, with Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Michael Gambon and Rupert Penry-Jones. 120 minutes. A Warner Brothers release. Opens Tuesday (December 25). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 77. Rating: NNN

if i were a screenwriter i would write a movie like Charlotte Gray. Based on the book by Sebastian Faulks, it stars Cate Blanchett as a Scottish nurse who falls in love with an RAF pilot. When he’s listed as missing in action in France, Charlotte joins the British secret service and is sent to France to work for the Resistance and look for her lover.

The first 20 minutes are super. Blanchett convinces us that Charlotte would risk her life to be reunited with her man. She’s deeply in love, but also idolizes the valour of the men around her and wants a chance to emulate them. By the time she arrives in France and gets involved with Resistance leader Julien (Billy Crudup), we’re hooked.

But then the squirming starts. Director Anderson and writer Jeremy Brock have added a few too many plot layers: Charlotte has to care for two Jewish boys whose parents have been captured by the Nazis, she’s got missions to finish, a lover to look for and Julien and Julien’s father (Michael Gambon) to deal with.

Yet it’s refreshing to see a woman playing the stereotypical heroic Resistance fighter, and to the film’s credit, its overriding message is that not everyone can be saved. One person can make a difference, but can’t change the course of the world.

The ultra-pale Blanchett — she looks as if all her blood has been drained — commits to the role, playing Charlotte with a sense of hubris and intelligence. She’s no Jamie Bond, but, rather, an intellectual with a secret love and a chip on her shoulder. IR

Fleder failsIMPOSTOR directed by Gary Fleder, written by Scott Rosenberg, Caroline Case, Ehren Kruger and David Twohy from the story by Philip K. Dick, produced by Marty Katz, with Gary Sinise, Madeleine Stowe, Vincent D’Onofrio and Tony Shalhoub. 90 minutes. A Dimension Films release through Alliance-Atlantis. Opens Tuesday (December 25). For venues and times, see First Run Films, page 77. Rating: Nimpostor is a philip k. dick adap-tation that’s been sitting on the shelf at Dimension, the genre subsidiary of Miramax, since about 1998. There’s a history of films that have been held back simply because the distributors didn’t know how to handle their greatness. Impostor, alas, isn’t one of these.Four different writers are credited, and the whole thing feels like a panicky studio recut.

Simply put, in 2079 the Earth has been in a long-term war with beings from Alpha Centauri. One day, Spencer Olham (Gary Sinise), the designer of Earth’s newest and biggest weapon, is arrested by security forces on the grounds that he’s not Spencer Olham but an Alpha Centauri spy who has killed Olham and stolen his genetic structure in order to get close to and assassinate the chancellor (Lindsay Crouse).

A lengthy chase ensues through some rather large, gloomy sets as Olham hunts for the truth. This being a Philip K. Dick story, we can be pretty sure that the “truth” will involve Dick’s favourite literary device, known technically as “the old switcheroo.”

Mostly, one watches this film and thinks things like, “If John Malkovich had turned down Being John Malkovich, would they have offered the part to Vincent D’Onofrio?” and “What the heck happened to Madeleine Stowe’s career in the decade since The Last Of The Mohicans?”

Director Gary Fleder is best known for Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead and Kiss The Girls, so it isn’t all that depressing to see mediocrity with his signature on it. It’s more like the natural order of the universe.

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