Sunday, January 15, 2012
Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel are intriguing casting choices for this, Joseph Conrad's tale of a pair of forever-fighting French soldiers. A mild spat over soldierly duty turns into an ongoing feud that the men take across numerous Napoleonic battlefields and through three decades, eventually achieving notoriety among their countrymen even as they observe the strict protocols governing such feuds.
Casting a pair of Americans was a savvy move on director Ridley Scott's part: perhaps there's some subtle commentary on American militarism intended, or perhaps their Americanness serves as an alienness that sets our heroes (heh) apart from their countrymen (who, in turn, are played mostly by British thespians). In any event, the story of the conflict waged by these two men is absolutely engrossing; the characters that surround them are uniformly well-played (Tom Conti stands out as a gentle physician all too familiar with the toll of warfare on men's bodies and spirits); the combat scenes are suspenseful (including a bizarre interlude in which Carradine and Keitel must fight side-by-side); and it ends with what is surely one of the most gloriously ambiguous sunrises in film history. This is a favorite of many of my peers; after finally seeing it theatrically it may well be one of mine.