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In 1941, Italy allies with Germany and ruthlessly conquers the much weaker country of Greece. On a remote Greek island, an Italian artillery garrison is established to maintain order. One Italian officer, Captain Corelli, adopts an attitude of mutual co-existence with the Greeks and engages in such activities as music festivals and courting the daughter of a local doctor. In 1943, however, after Italy surrenders to the Allies and changes sides in the war, Captain Corelli must defend the Greek island against a German invasion. Written by
Anthony Hughes <email@example.com>
As is often the case when you attempt to take a 400 plus page book and cram it into a two hour film, a lot is lost. Here director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) takes on an extremely ambitious project and almost pulls it off. What we get is a charming and emotionally compelling film that seems somehow incomplete.
There is much about this film that is wonderful and fantastic. The cinematography by John Toll (Cinematographer for Braveheart and Legends of the Fall, winning Oscars for both) is splendid. Working with Madden, the choices for locations on the Greek island of Kefallonia are superb and the visual images that come from photographing these majestic locations in varying light are lush and beautiful. Madden also uses numerous Greek actors as the townspeople, giving the town an authentic feel. The soundtrack is also terrific and the mandolin passages and vocals by the Italian soldiers are marvelous.
Madden does an excellent job of bringing us the Italian occupation and the romance, which take up the greater part of the film. There are numerous sweet and funny moments throughout this segment. However, by the time the serious battle drama is ready to unfold, there isn't much film left in the reel and this component is extremely rushed and abbreviated. While the battle scenes are well done, subsequent to the battle it is obvious that increasingly greater compromises are being made to keep the film from running too long. By the time we reach the post war scenes, the treatment is merely skeletal. Another negative is that the DVD is particularly sparse on features.
Nicholas Cage is charming in the romantic lead as the sentimental Captain who seems to have joined the army to sing rather than fight. When fight he must, Cage switches gears seamlessly into a man of fierce principle and resolve and somehow remains believable in both personas.
Penelope Cruz, whom the camera loves, gives an uninspired performance as Pelagia. In part this is because Cage so dominates the screen, but Cruz just seems too placid in a part that should be emotionally torrential and dynamic. She allows the character to be objectified as Corelli's love interest rather than establishing her as a powerful character in her own right.
John Hurt gives a fantastic performance as the wise old doctor, who knows as much about human nature as medicine. However, Christian Bale seems a bit overwrought and stiff as Pelagia's fiancé.
I rated this film an 8/10. Despite some drawbacks, this is a touching film that is well worth seeing. The photography alone is worth the price of admission.
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