“Our choices will be the mark of who we are.” Set in 1944 and based on the Owen Sheers novel, Resistance features a fictional World War II scenario after the German Axis forces win the famous D-Day Invasion and advance on Europe from the north and west. Sheers also co-wrote the screenplay with director/co-screenwriter Amit Gupta.
With several German language sequences, the filmmakers tackle an interesting premise to tell the story of a patrolling German soldier group, sent ahead of the main German army, as they settle in the small Welsh village of Olchon. As the soldiers learn to co-exist with the villagers, they are tasked with a special side mission.
“Do not draw attention here with our presence; victory is imminent,” says a German soldier, explaining that the soldiers control the area by keeping anyone from entering or leaving or censoring materials (e.g. letters) that go in or out.
Tom Wlaschiha plays the leading German officer named Albredcht while Iwan Rheon plays a young man on the opposite side named George. They both struggle with orders. They both struggle for their countries. Audiences only need to hear the examples of atrocities that make “bad morale” to understand and absorb the impact.
One key war sequence reflects the vicious fighting this German group previously encountered. Sheltered now within the quiet Welsh community, they cherish the peace and quiet and respectfully offer assistance to local women with their responsibilities and duties.
These men make a nice impression, but one woman owns this movie, which could be retitled to more accurately reflect the plot. The women in this area, led by Andrea Riseborough (Nocturnal Animals) as Sarah, must accept an uneasy cohabitation arrangement with the German soldiers. Her looks, stares, and mannerisms reflect her fresh depression.
Just as the soldiers must deal with their emotional baggage including post-traumatic stress disorder, Sarah learns to cope with the disappearance of her husband Tom. She also shows surprising insight that would warrant her own story. “I know what you did, I see you,” she tells a German soldier. She boldly puts up a mirror to their humanity while shielding her own, and strategically answering the Germans’ questions.
Her dream sequences reveal the main romantic elements in the plot while on the surface she and the other ladies try to continue a semblance of their normal life, which filmmakers display in a key flashback sequence with the village community together at a meal.
Sharon Morgan equals Riseborough’s performance as the elderly Maggie. Her strong, maternal lead encourages the entire community to press on and continue in their lives as best they can. She’s strong and often hides her weaknesses. “Why didn’t any of you say something; you should’ve talked to me,” Sarah tells Maggie after discovering yet another hardship. Maggie also wrestles with her role among the German soldiers during the harsh winter months and the loyalty to her community. A younger girl tells Maggie “Do what you have to, but I’m not going to help.”
Other sequences hint at curiosity and even scouting as each party questions the other’s intentions amid this precarious arrangement. “When did they leave you?” asks one woman to a German solider referring to when they separated from the Gestapo who quickly follows with “You can go now” after her defensive instincts take over.
Michael Sheen also has a small, but important role as Tommy Atkins who represents as a schoolmaster-turned-resistance leader. “Collaboration cannot be tolerated,” he tells a young man.
His short role might have had more impact, but filmmakers do not provide much character background before the human narrative unfolds. This development in characters and the plot could have clarified points for the audience better. Instead filmmakers depend on flashback sequences to expand his role, which reaches other characters in subtle and effective ways, especially one sequence where a character quietly, but effectively prepares a way to resist these forces. Loyalty and livelihood come into play as filmmakers hint at the beginnings of the British Resistance Organization (BRO), a top-secret and highly trained civilian army was designed to wreak havoc on occupying enemy forces.
Other characters include Stanislav Ianevski as a scarred German solider named Bernhardt, Anatole Taubman as a tall German solider and Simon Armstrong as George’s father.
The scenery and set design really impresses while set design elements like the radios play an important part. The countryside environments really press into the audience’s emotions as they soak in memorable shots like an amazing rainbow shot that seems like visual effects wizardry, but it’s not.
Gupta also incorporates effective point-of-view camera shots including one through binoculars though changing the perspective from in front of the subject to behind the subject would have made a cave discovery sequence much more effective.
Be patient with the restrained, but purposeful plot, which matches character intentions as well. Resistance has tension, but not much mystery besides the impeding Gestapo involvement. For example, filmmakers incorporate gun sounds then show characters’ reactions in the camera frame as they say “We must get on with our work.” Composer Mark Bradshaw provides a great musical score with well-placed segments of piano and violin movements while cinematographer John Pardue enhances the film with authentic landscapes.
Timing is everything in this home video release. Primed by the success of the Man in the High Castle series and two Game of Thrones actors rising to prominence, Resistance is a moving film that could have been much more graphic, violent, and traumatic. Instead filmmakers create a sustained experience where audiences can identify with the characters.
No extra features available. Audio track options include 5.1 surround sound and 2.0 Dolby digital and English subtitles available. This 92-minute film has no easy answers or even resolution; even characters’ words are used sparingly. The great acting performances support this solid wartime human drama where decisions, emotions, and coping methods mix into a memorable experience. Filmed in Wales and Herefordshire, England (both in the UK), Resistance comes recommended with a few reservations.