Film Review: Resistance
Let’s pretend D-day has failed; Germany occupies parts of Britain and now advances into Welsh territory. Such is the alternative reality of Resistance, as first-time director Amit Gupta takes a stab at transporting the well-respected novel of Owen Sheers to the theatre.
While beautifully shot, complemented with strong performances from Andrea Riseborough and Tom Wlaschiha, the story falls short on capitalizing on its intriguing premise with a pace that is painfully slow.
Set in an alternative WWII, Resistance opens as the Nazis advance further into Britain. Starring as Sarah, a farmer’s wife in an isolated Welsh valley, Andrea Riseborough awakes to the coldness of an empty bed. Her husband, disappearing in the night with the other men of the village, has fled north for fear of being caught by German soldiers. Shortly after, Captain Albrecht (Tom Wlaschiha) arrives on the screen, leading a group of Nazi Soldiers to set up an observation post in the village.
Using any WWII movie as a reference, we immediately feel a sense of uneasiness, as we watch the soldiers’ first interactions with the women of the village. Surprisingly, the Nazis are a co-operative bunch, and quickly upon arriving, they’re pitching in to help the women run their farms during an increasingly harsh winter. Through the close help from the Nazis, Sarah develops a tentative relationship with Albrecht, despite the fact that the penalty for collaboration is death. As their unlikely relationship slowly builds, both Sarah and Albrecht feel conflicted about their standing with each other, mounting to an internal emotional struggle between loneliness and loyalty.
Riseborough and Wlaschiha are both brilliant, developing their cautious relationship through a series of looks, glances and bodily expressions. We appreciate the talent that goes into communicating feelings to the audience, while having a script that gives very little to work with. The leads are supported with a tantalizing cast that includes Kimberley Nixon (as one of the village women), Iwan Rheon (as a trainee sniper), Michael Sheen (as a local postman training resistance fighters). However, despite having such a powerful acting crew, the script, unfortunately, wastes the talent by giving them very little screen time.
Highlighted in the film is the gorgeous cinematography by John Pardue. With striking shots of a snowy landscape and effectively capturing the deafening interactions of the two leads, the film’s physically distant yet emotionally complex tone is beautifully presented.
Where Resistance strays to problematic is in its inability to make this intriguing plot anything more than pedestrian. With hardly any action sequences, (And we don’t just mean violence), the movie is completely withdrawn from suspense and tension, leaving viewers bored throughout. The potential is clearly there, smacking us right in the face. But the film spends too much time developing an uninteresting forbidden relationship, and despite strong work from both actors, it completely negates the supporting actors or a central plot.
Final Verdict: Failing to capitalize on the expertise supporting Resistance, director Amit Gupta debut kicks off rather sluggish. Leaving too much unspoken, Resistance is never able to effectively access the cross-cultural love story it attempts at tackling and fails to successfully draw upon its questioning theme of how far collaboration can be justified. Ultimately, we are left with nothing more than high disappointment and minor satisfaction.