As luck would have it, Jesse Eisenberg is becoming one of the faces of pandemic. The Oscar-nominated actor is the lead in two high-profile features premiering on VOD. The first one, Vivarium, is a high concept sci-fi horror hybrid. The second one, Resistance, is far more traditional, but is not as satisfactory.
Based on the experiences of renown mime Marcel Marceau during World War II, the bulk of Resistance takes place during the German occupation of France. Initially a pedantic wannabe actor, Marceau (Eisenberg) takes a shine to a group of Jewish orphans that have escaped Germany.
As the Nazis put the squeeze on the Jewish community, Marceau feels compelled to protect the kids and join the French Resistance. His revolutionary activities put him in collision course with the Butcher of Lyon, the infamous Klaus Barbie. It downs on Marcel that saving others is a stronger statement than dying for the cause.
Even though the events on which the film is based are compelling per se, director Jonathan Jakubowicz (Hands of Stone) botches the execution by failing to provide the main character with a development arc. Jesse Eisenberg does as much as possible to give Marceau some consistency, but finds no support on the script or the direction.
In one instance, the would-be mime straight-up murders one of Barbie’s cronies. At no point the film gives the impression Marceau has a killer instinct, nor we’re told of the impact perpetrating such a violent act has in him.
The film feels aimless until very late. The top half is filled with loosely connected vignettes that instead of move the story forward, make the endeavour unnecessarily confusing. The many roundabouts are likely to diminish audiences’ interest.
A major factor in the disappointing outcome is Jakubowicz’ involvement in every aspect of the process (he wrote, produced, directed and edited the feature). Without someone to keep him in check, the filmmaker follows his worst instincts almost every time.
At least Jakubowicz surrounds himself with competent people. Eisenberg, Clemence Poesy (Fleur Delacour in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) and Bella Ramsey (Lyanna Mormont in Game of Thrones) try very hard to make sense of their underwritten characters. The standout is German mainstay Matthias Schweighöfer, suitably menacing and sadistic as Barbie. The cinematography by Miguel Littin-Menz is also remarkable, if wasted.
As a freedom fighter, Marceau is rather ineffective, but shows extreme calm under unfathomable pressure. Resistance doesn’t explore this, easily the most interesting aspect of the character. Perhaps it was an unintended effect. Two planets inside a glass box.
Resistance is now available on demand.