Sunday, July 18, 2010

Just Watched: The Red Baron

The Red Baron

I'm sure there's a good film to be made about Manfred von Richthofen but this isn't it.  It's pretty enough and Richthofen seems like an affable guy but the film spends too much time trying to build a fictional love story and repeating its anti-war mantra.

The lead actor, Matthias Schweighöfer brought the right level of elitism and bravado to the role of the Baron and his love interest was equally well played by Lena Headey who brought a frayed earthiness to her role as Nurse Käte Otersdorf,  Their personalities balanced well but Headey is considerably older than Schweighöfer and they made an odd screen couple. The fact is their whole romance could have been skipped and the film would not have suffered.  (While researching this post noticed Headey's playing the vain and incestuous Cersei Lannister in the upcoming HBO series Game of Thrones.  She has a cold steeliness to her that I think will serve that role well. )  I wasn't a fan of Joseph Fiennes' Canadian airman character however, like his brother I think he makes a better German.

Being that this is a German film about a German war hero the war guilt is palpable.  It's as if every interesting thing that occurred in Richthofen 's life was either a cautionary tale of the cost of war or a philosophical exposition about honor and valor.  I have no doubt that Richthofen considered the mortality of his adversaries but it's hard to ignore the fact he was a skilled warrior who killed a lot of people.  Not every dogfight ended with a handshake in a field in no-mans-land and not every hero need live a flawless life.

The truth is I didn't make it to the end of The Red Baron.  The last 20 minutes played out while I was surfing around the internet not the least bit interested in what was happening on the screen.  I think the Baron scolded the Kaiser and told him to end the war and then went off and got shot down. Yawn.

 If you're in the mood for some WWI flying I'd suggest The Blue Max (1966) staring George Peppard  (The director John Guillermin also directed The Towering Inferno).  It's not a great film either but it is less heavy handed with its subject matter.

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