Resistance review: An unlikely, entertaining WWII thriller
Eisenberg’s mime acting7
How scared you’ll be of swimming pools7.5
Ian Loring | On 21, Jun 2020
Director: Jonathan Jakubowicz
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Clémence Poésy, Matthias Schweighöfer, Félix Moati, Vica Kerekes
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Jesse Eisenberg has turned his hand to a great deal of interesting work over the years, from egomaniacal tyrants such as Lex Luthor and Mark Zuckerberg to the charming, surprisingly capable lead of Zombieland. But the idea of him playing Marcel Marceau, who had a hand in ensuring that Jewish children and adults weren’t wiped from the face of the Earth, feels like someone just used a random word generator to come up with his next role. It is heartening, then, to report that while Resistance isn’t perfect, the actor has picked another fulfilling and engagement project.
Opening with an odd cameo, as Ed Harris bookends the action as General Patton, Resistance starts on somewhat dodgy territory, with the film perhaps trying too hard to convince us that Marcel is a genius – an over-extended scene of the most famous mime in history entertaining children feels like too much in a film that isn’t exactly short. The main plot sees Marceau and friends – including Clémence Poésy’s increasingly damaged love interest Emma – join the French Resistance to stop the Nazis from completely dominating France. Eisenberg and Poésy show some great chemistry together, their bond feeling stronger as the film goes on. While their relationship is never the focus, it does feel like a breather when the action slows down to spend time on them.
This section goes through some of the usual beats you see with films set in this period, but it perhaps needs saying now more than ever that the Nazis were an embodiment of the worst of humanity. There is some solid work done in showing that the party’s doctrine was fully believed by those who served under it, but that each follower still had their own personal lives as well; Matthias Schweighöfer as Barbie does a fine job in filling out what could have been a two-dimensional bad guy role, with one particularly tense encounter leading to a surprising conversation with Marceau about his aspirations for his child. However, the film never tries to legitimise Barbie’s thinking, just remind us that the Nazis were humans, something that makes what they believed and what they did all the more disturbing.
Writer-director Jonathan Jakubowicz crafts some terrific set pieces in the second half, filling the atmosphere with impending dread and claustrophobia, while allowing chinks of light to come through. While the look of the film feels like it’s used a “World War 2 Europe” template, there are some some striking visual moments. Despite the first act taking its time to get the ball rolling, this is a worthwhile two hours, telling one heck of a true story, one that remains depressingly relevant.
Resistance is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of an £11.99 NOW Cinema Membership subscription.