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A fine adaptation
1 May 2005
As a fan of the Aubrey/Maturin novels, I have to say that this is an amazing adaptation. Crowe isn't big enough for Aubrey, Bettany is too good looking to play Maturin, and Billy Boyd is far too small for Barrett Bonden... but they all work very well in the roles.

Much of the charm of the novels is that there is much that goes unsaid - actions must be inferred from future events. Translating this to the screen is not easy, but here it works out well. Because the film takes bits from all of the books (or many of them, at least), it's chock full of tasty bits of O'Brian. The preeminent pun of the series, regarding dog-watches, is oddly absent, but others are there.

If you like the novels, you will like the film. It captures the feel of the books. The flavor of Nelson's navy is retained. Had I not seen the movie, I would complain about the casting. Having seen it, I have no complaints.
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How do you screw up a movie about Stalingrad?
20 March 2001
Stalingrad is the Eastern Front in a nutshell. Hundreds of thousands of men doomed by their leaders' mistakes. Vicious street fighting. Sniper duels. Fertile ground for a war movie... so how do you screw it up?

Add a love story and use British actors to give it that "Oh, John", "Oh, Mary" feel.

The British accents really wreck the tone of the movie. Bob Hoskins is an excellent actor, and probably has a decent handle on Kruschev, his speech patterns, and his mannerisms, but delivered in that accent, it was a mood killer. With luck, after this the Brits will be back where they belong: playing Nazis.

The love triangle is implausible. It all seems rather contrived, and ironically enough, is underdeveloped, and is based entirely on coincidence, but then again, so is much of the plot.

The titles and subtitles use the extremely annoying conceit of the faux-Cyrillic character set; you know the one, where all the Es are replaced with Sigmas.

On the plus side, this movie does depict the way the Soviets fought the Great Patriotic War rather well. The chaotic command structure, the deification of Comrade Stalin, and the extreme penalties for failure are all present.

The movie tries to walk the line between romance and war. There's too much of each for the other to succeed.
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