A teenage orphan fights against the Red Army at the end of WWII and in the aftermath is 'adopted' by a Commissar. Years later he is sent to London during the Cold war to work for the KGB, where he questions his life.
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In 1944, 14-year-old Thomas is convoked to fight in the German Army. He survives, but his town is destroyed, his family dies in a bombing and his sweetheart Melanie is raped and murdered by the Russian Army. A Commissar brings the orphan Thomas to Soviet Union, and he is sent to the military school. Years later, Thomas becomes an agent of KGB and in 1962, during the Cold War, he is assigned to work in London. Living with ghosts from the past in constant fear and paranoia, he meets the black Londoner Yvonne, who gives him the strength of joy. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
[Mother ties cravat around young Thomas]
"staying real keep us alive. Stay strong and you will survive anything"
[Mother sits down admiring Thomas' cravat]
"make your own decissions. That's the best way, believe me - it's the only way"
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Perhaps I should have been warned by the banner across the top of the box 'THE PAST IS A PLACE YOU CANNOT ESCAPE' (so profound - not) and the fact that the only praise longer than one word they have is from something called Boys Toys, who proclaim 'SEARING WARTIME SET-PIECES'. The latter at least is true.
Here's an edited synopsis: 'In the last days of World War II, a teenager is forced into battle against the advancing Red Army ... he is captured by the Russians and disappears behind the Iron Curtain ... 17 years later, he is recruited ... and sent on a mission by the KGB to London'.
Bought this because Tom Schilling was in it but have to agree with the other reviewers - his bits are excellent, the German back story is the only watchable part, mostly because of his natural, effortless, sympathetic performance and far more credible and moving than the 60s spy episodes. They should have expanded this to movie length and completely cut the 60s section.
This film was written and directed by Reg Traviss. There's a reason this guy's not a household name and this movie could be it. First, he's cast Ed Stoppard (no relation to Tom or Miriam - oh wait, yes, he's their son; nothing like getting a part on merit, and this is nothing like it). His lines are delivered in an affectless tone, reminiscent of Keira Knightley at the wooden beginning of her career, with one of those irritating schizophrenic accents British people adopt to please Americans, often heard in US teen drama, such as Dawson's Creek and One Tree Hill; for the first half of a sentence, they sound as if they're in Downton, for the second half, they sound like they're in EastEnders, i.e. posh then common. No one in England really talks like this. And whereas everything Tom Schilling does is finely nuanced; Ed Stoppard's a blunt instrument and he doesn't have the charisma to carry a weak storyline. It's not entirely his fault as he doesn't have much to work with.
Then, if he started as German, then went to live in Russia, why doesn't he speak English with a foreign accent? It has to be pointed out that Tom Schilling is way more convincing in a second language than Ed is in his first. It would have made more sense (since Schilling was playing 10 years younger than his actual age), to age him a mere 7 years and allow him to play the older version too. At least there would have been a consistency as far as accents are concerned.
The story and script are dire. The 60s spy plot is stultifying (consisting of Ed waiting on a succession of benches to rendezvous with other spies), though they try to spice it up by adding Michelle Gayle (not really known for her acting and this isn't going to help) as a supremely uninteresting love interest. They both like art so they fall in love. It's as bland and as undeveloped as that but no doubt Reg thought it represented a real meeting of minds.
There's a very irritating cameo from Bernard Hill as a disaffected Communist who spouts tripe like: 'Are we the leaders? Or are we the led? Or are we neither?' which must pass for deep in Reg Traviss's world and Ed's too as he responds 'It's a lot to think about'. No, it ain't. Who cares? Worse than all this though is the voice-over, which is another attempt to be deep, with Ed delivering such pearls of wisdom as 'strength through experience to again become strong'. Hmm. This doesn't mean anything. Or 'the unstoppable force of nature swept through my heart'. Neither does this. But Reg is fond of 'unstoppable force'; it crops up more than once.
Don't go thinking this has anything much to do with either the Joy Division of the Nazis or the band of the late 70s. If only.
My final verdict is that there's just about enough Tom Schilling to warrant any fan of his watching this movie.
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