Wednesday, July 6, 2011

WAR CHICK FLICK: Captain Corelli's Mandolin


     My wife and I recently inaugurated a side project of watching certain war movies that are described as female friendly. I will be referring to them as War Chick Flicks. The list is inspired by “War Movies: Estrogen” from the book Military History’s Most Wanted. Others we will be viewing include: Hanover Street, Yanks, Coming Home, D-Day: The Sixth of June, and I Was a Male Order Bride. We’ll try to do about one a month because that’s all I can stomach.

     First up is “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” from 2001. The movie takes place on the Mediterranean island of Cephallonia. The island is Greek, but occupied by the Italian army. Capt. Corelli (Nicholas Cage) arrives with his artillery unit. They immediately fit into the idyllic community because Italian soldiers are lovers, not warriors. Especially Corelli who is also a mandolin player and all-around jovial chap. He’s the kind of guy who pets the rock when he stubs his toe. He meets the feisty Pelagia (Penelope Cruz) who is the daughter of the town doctor. She is in love with a partisan named Mandras (Christian Bale) who is away at war. At first Pegalia does not like Corelli, but that will change. By the time Mandras returns, he is odd person out in the love triangle. The second half of the film complicates matters by having the German army arrive to disarm the Italians now that the Italian government has surrendered. The Germans do this with extreme prejudice and even execute many Italian prisoners, Corelli survives by the miraculous intervention of one of his friends. He is nursed back to health by Pegalia and her father and then escapes by boat back to Italy. Will they be reunited? Watch the movie.

     My wife enjoyed this movie. She found the complicated love triangle to be realistic (which is a little suspicious if you ask me). The Nazis are accurately portrayed as being mean and nasty. The acting is good and the characters seemed like real people. She was surprised by how well Bale did with a difficult role. The accents were consistent and well-done. The battle scenes were not too violent. The score was not impressive, but at least did not get in the way of the story. She could have done without the small amount of nudity.

     I was not looking forward to watching this movie. I am not looking forward to watching any of the estrogen movies that I have set us up for, to tell the truth. This one in particular scared me because of the terrible reviews and the fact it has Nicholas Cage in it and there was every reason to expect the bad Cage. The first half seemed to confirm my fears. Cage plays Corelli as the stereotypical Italian soldier who has never fired a shot (or in this case shell) in anger and has no desire to. I found his accent to be silly and his mandolin playing (he has fashioned his unit into a choral group) to be ridiculous. The love story is cliché-ridden with Pegalia hating him at first and then being worn down by his charm. Not exactly original. I was a little offended by her jilting her hero fiancé because he is gone and Corelli (technically an enemy occupier) is there. Mandras deserved better and yet the movie does not portray Pegalia in a negative light. Another collaborating woman is shown hanged by fellow townspeople, but there is no suggestion that Pegalia deserves the same fate.

     The movie is somewhat redeemed when the historical events arrive in the second half. The core of this stretch of the film is the “Massacre of the Acqui Division” by the Germans. Although Corelli is not based on an actual Italian officer, he does represent the officers who decided to resist the Germans. The battle scene is pretty good with some intensity. Appropriately the Germans kick ass. The treacherous machine gunning of prisoners is diluted somewhat by the ridiculous surviving of Corelli. The Germans were clearly too efficient to have allowed him to live. Since I was not aware of what happened on this island, I give the movie credit for being instructional.

     In conclusion, “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” perfectly fits the parameters of this project and my wife and my reviews reflect that. Women will like this movie much more than most men (just look at the poster). It does have enough manly elements to keep it from being torture for male war movie lovers.

Rachelle – 7/10

Kevin – 5/10

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