This film dramatizes a fascinating piece of history that isn’t well known. As such, and given the adaptation and direction was by Hollywood powerhouse Clooney (Gravity), I expected something a bit more, well, compelling.
It isn’t that the overall effect doesn’t gut punch you and make you grit your teeth at times. It does. However it is more about the actions rather than the characters. Characters make a good movie, actions simply make a good dramatization or documentary. Clooney and long-time collaborator, Heslov, tackled the story as they had Good Night, and Good Luck. and The Ides of March. Both historicals and both quietly intense.
Neither is Clooney, as a director, known for fast-paced actioners, but he does, typically, create intense and deep characters in his final cut. However, in this case, there is no overall shape to the film. It simply is. Beautifully filmed and with some great moments, but not particularly well crafted as a story. Part of the challenge was likely the scope of the story and the number of people involved. They clearly didn’t want to leave anyone out given their parts in history. It is as much an homage as it is a drama.
The cast is a wonderful collection of talent: Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Goodman (Inside Llewyn Davis), Murray (Hyde Park on Hudson), Damon (Elysium), Dujardin (The Artist), Balaban (Moonrise Kingdom), and Bonneville (From Time to Time). They each get a moment or two in the story, but no one really stood out, though Blanchett’s accent slips a few times.
For the events and illumination alone, the film is worth seeing once. It isn’t going to regarded as a triumph for any of those involved, but it certainly depicts a triumph of humanity over a type of evil that you may never have known about or considered. And it may raise some questions that you’ve never considered.