Friday, September 17, 2010

The English Patient. A

The English Patient ranks among the best of the great epics, and that includes Lawrence of Arabia, El Cid, and The Bridge on the River Kwai. There's nothing modern about it, and though it's a period piece from the forties, it doesn't let style dominate. It's blessed by an outstanding script from Anthony Minghella (who also directs) that focuses on each individual character and how they contribute to the story. The narrative here is one that takes the story of severely burned man (Ralph Fiennes) and shows how he got to such a terrifying and gruesome state. The ultimate reason is love, but by the time the story ends, love really is the perfect answer. The flashbacks get a good amount of time, but the film, running at 160 minutes, still has plenty of room to explore stories of the present day. And one thing I loved about the movie was how the flashbacks are only a few years old. So we get to see exactly how the events played out that led to the terrible plane crash (the one that burned Fiennes' character). The present story and the flashbacks are both simultaneously tragic and magnificent. Especially the flashbacks, which contain some of the most beautiful images of the sun's power since King Vidor's Duel in the Sun. There's a superb cast on display here as well, ranging from the leads, Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, and Kristen Scott Thomas, to a rich array of supporting players, including Willem Defoe, Colin Firth, and Naveen Andrews. Andrews, known to most as Sayid from Lost, pretty much plays the exact same character as he did in that show. He's a lover, he's smart, and he's an expert at defusing bombs. The English Patient looks familiar on paper. An epic war drama involving a dangerous affair, complete with lush imagery and stirring music. But thankfully it doesn't follow the trends that so many modern Hollywood epics do. It stays away from formula, and actually gives you a lot to think about. And a lot more than you might initially pick up on the first viewing.

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