Saturday, May 22, 2010

Flame and Citron

When one exists in the shadows, eventually it becomes difficult to see what is and what isn’t surrounding him or her. Such was the case for Flame and Citron. These are the codenames of two Dutch resistance fighters, real names Bent and Jorgen, who used their knowledge and steely dispositions to put as many chinks in the Nazi’s armor as possible. They didn’t smuggle goods or information, they didn’t scramble communications or plant bombs, they were assassins. They simply got a person’s papers, found that person and killed them, period, no questions asked. But as time went on, things began to get more “gray” and nerves began to unravel. Eventually Flame and Citron began to become paranoid, they began to ask questions. The missions and orders also began to seem strange, further fueling their fire. Have things changed? Do they have reason to be suspicious? Or are the terrors of war creating unfounded paranoia in them?

This is a true story of two of the great heroes of the European theater of World War II. They did awful things, during an awful time, for fantastic reasons. They were brave, smart, calculated, selfless and sacrificing and man is it fascinating to watch their story in a frank portrayal. This movie isn’t explosions and tense scenes of espionage. It is a movie about these two men, plain and simple. It is so squarely focused on them that it seems less like a historical piece about World War II, with none of the obligatory characteristics of that genre like meetings of generals in some war room or scenes of high ranking Nazi officials planning dastardly deed or bunkers being stormed, but more like a psychological drama about two men who gave all they were to do something great only to realize the stark realities of their decision. They existed in the shadows and that can be a pretty damn dark, cold place to exist.

While a bit long, this movie has very few other drawbacks. It’s beautifully shot to look like a gorgeous remake of The Third Man. The production design is spot on. The script is flawless and the performances are truly top rate. If you like movies about WWII and espionage, this is a fresh addition to that genre and I’m certain you’re going to love it.