Directed by: Jonathan Jakubowicz
Premise: Based on true events. During World War II, aspiring performance artist Marcel Marceau (Jesse Eisenberg) works with the French Resistance and escorts Jewish orphans fleeing the Nazis.
What Works: Resistance is a tale of subterfuge and survival in Nazi-occupied France. Holocaust dramas are generally about people called to do good in the face of evil and this story fulfills that convention. Resistance begins before the war and finds Jewish actor and performance artist Marcel Marceau self-involved with his fledgling career. As Jewish refugees make their way into France, Marceau cares for orphaned children and when Germany invades the country he gets involved with the French Resistance, using his skills as a calligrapher to create fake identification papers. The story effectively puts Marceau is situations in which he must choose whether or not to help people and those choices define his character and make Marceau heroic. Resistance is effective as a wartime suspense tale. The movie is not really about combat but about evasion as Marceau and his allies lead children to safety. They are pursued by Nazi officials and the movie includes a few tense cat-and-mouse sequences. Resistance also features a notable supporting performance by young actor Bella Ramsey as a Jewish girl who is taken in by Marceau and company. Ramsey’s character is traumatized by what she’s been through but she also recovers over the course of the film and the young actress conveys a lot with subtle expressions of her face and posture.
What Doesn’t: World War II and the Holocaust have inspired a whole genre of films that include Schindler’s List, The Reader, Sarah’s Key, The Pianist, Life is Beautiful, and Defiance among many others. Resistance is a satisfactory entry in the genre but it isn’t particularly distinguished. Aside from the fact that the movie’s protagonist went on to great fame there’s not much else in Resistance that adds to the pantheon of Holocaust dramas. And the film doesn’t really change the way we see Marcel Marceau or his art. He begins the movie wanting to be a performance artist, those plans are put on hold during World War II, and then he resumes his work. The film doesn’t connect Marceau’s wartime experience with his art nor does it reveal anything about the war or the anti-Semitism of the time. As a result, the movie plays as a generic World War II drama.
DVD extras: Featurette and trailer.
Bottom Line: Resistance is a successful but average Holocaust drama. The movie is efficient and reinforces the familiar tropes and values of this kind of film but there’s very little in Resistance that we haven’t seen before in many other World War II films.
Episode: #838 (February 7, 2021)