"Why do you go to the bathroom?" Jesse Eisenberg, as Marcel Marceau, asks his father in the new film Resistance from Venezuelan filmmaker Jonathan Jakubowicz. In the scene, Marceau's father Charles (Karl Markovics) is stubbornly demanding to understand why his son creates art.
"Because my body gives me no choice," Charles responds.
"And there it is," Eisenberg's character replies.
It's a quiet yet poignant moment in an otherwise by-the-numbers WWII film, but it's one that heralds more harrowing events to come: In case you didn't know, Marcel Marceau—yes, the mime—saved or helped save literally thousands of Jewish children during the Nazi occupation of France, and Jakubowicz takes us inside some sort of sensationalized version of those events, ones it's probable not everyone knows.
Eisenberg's take on the most famous mime is certainly…something. His trademarked fast-talking weirdness kind of works in earlier, sillier scenes set in the late-1930s, but the deeper into the war things progress, the more it seems out of place. He tries to make up for it with mime work and tense glances exchanged with his love interest Emma (Clémence Poésy), but never once does he feel like an actual mime and never once does he seem like someone actually up to the tasks unfolding before him. Poésy is charming in a certain way, but mainly her character exists to ask about where Marcel is, what Marcel is doing and to protect him and to do things he asks of her, even when she wishes to do otherwise.
Game of Thrones' Bella Ramsey, however, has the goods, as per usual. And though her character, a teenaged orphan uprooted repeatedly while fleeing the Nazis, is given precious little to do, she remains one of the most talented young actors working today. Against Eisneberg's antics, too, she ekes out something akin to actual familial love; it's written in her eyes. Matthias Schweighöfer, meanwhile, as the infamous Klaus Barbie, proves a capable Nazi, albeit one who is sometimes portrayed as cartoonishly evil. It's unclear why we need a primer on his deeds when "Nazi=bad" seems the most basic equation.
And though the locations in which Resistance is filmed can be gorgeous, everything else is that pale blue-grey filmmaking view of WWII. It becomes difficult to access sincere emotion for characters so half-baked even as it's consistently interesting to learn of Marceau's contributions to the good guys.
Nevertheless, for budding historians (or just those who didn't know), a deeper look into Marceau's artistic pursuits—and their oddly beautiful ability to come into play while fleeing fascism—is a noble pursuit. If only Jakubowicz had taken a slightly less mainstream tack, we might've had something special or at least a little more memorable. As it stands, it's mostly interesting and only occasionally dull—a perfectly fine, middle-of-the-road kind of WWII movie that gets the job done. Oh yeah, and Ed Harris plays effing Patton for something like three minutes of screen time, whatever that means to you.
+Marcel Marceau—who knew?
-Feels like literally any other WWII movie despite material
Directed by Jakubowicz
With Eisenberg, Ramsey, Poésy and Harris
Amazon, R, 120 min.