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It is the story of Jiri and Jan, two Czech soldiers, battling alongside the allied forces against the Germans, during World War II in Tobruk, Libya. Jiri Pospichal, eighteen years old, signs up as a volunteer in the Czechoslovak army. His naive ideas about heroism are rawly confronted with the hell of the African desert, complicated relationships in his unit and the ubiquitous threat of death.Written by
There were two reasons I rushed to see this one, firstly because I loved Dark Blue World, a compassionate Czech war film about Czech pilots flying in the RAF in the Battle of Britain. It instilled in me the idea that Czech cinema could show the world how it was possible to have local soldiers alongside those of another nation without anyone getting insulted.
The second reason was that it was about Tobruk- a battle almost never seen on screen and a legendary one in the history of soldiers of my country.
Firstly I must say that Tobruk treats Australians well. We don't turn up much but when we do we seem human enough. One particular part showing some Aussies drinking in a bar and nonchalantly cheering for a man who has just fallen down the stairs seemed like a bit of comedy specially there for us, and it shows the attention to detail the cultural research must have had.
As a movie itself though, it was pretty lackluster. I don't mean because there is hardly any action (but be warned if you want action- there's little to go round) but because the movie just doesn't know what it wants to do, or who it should be following. At one point the camera follows a terror stricken deserter for a good 15 minutes, but when he meets up with some friends who have seen recent action, one has to wonder why the hell the camera didn't show their struggle instead. It seems the budget was blown on artillery barrages (which look very impressive BTW).
The characters are good, and you can identify with them, but they don't really change at all, and for some reason there's a cliffhanger ending. Since this movie doesn't really seem like one that is begging for a sequel, the ending seems pretty abrupt and badly written.
So yeah. Not very good. Avoid it if you want Action, an outline of the battle and/or why it was so important, a glimpse of a tank of any kind (despite being a large part of the battle), or for that matter, a glimpse of a German soldier. Yeah, hard to believe, isn't it.
However see it for the character study, what it's like to be a Jew disliked by an army fighting to protect your kind, training scenes, dim bunker scenes, the interesting dynamic of men being led by a man they hate so much they'd almost kill him themselves (and you'll wish for it too) and some fairly good desert photography. Oh and if you loved that shot out of Benjamin Button where the sub and tugboat were slinging blazing tracers at each other in the dead of night, there's a bit of that here too. Definitely a 'watch it to see what it was like back then' film rather than any real entertainment.
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