Not to mention Franciosa's fancy and expensive 1968 Hollywood haircut. Actors' willingness or unwillingness to have their hair styled appropriately for period films is a good tip-off to how seriously they view the whole project. See more »
A story about lost love while a colonel performs his duty to France
There are two main themes to this movie: A war time mission carried out by French intelligence and a story of true love and lost love. The main character is a colonel. He is the one referred to in the text that scrolls over the opening shot of the Arc de Triomphe............ He is stated to be a cold and ruthless agent of the Deuxième Bureau.
I like this movie but it isn't meant for everyone. It is really not an action movie, though it does have about 12 minutes of action towards the end. The longest continuous action sequence is about 4 minutes. I counted 65 explosions during this span. That doesn't happen until 67 minutes into the movie. When there is action it is very well done by 1968 standards anyway.
In Enemy Country (IEC) has relatively short scenes. Movies after 1961 tended to have scenes that averaged from 1 to 3 minutes. IEC scenes average 1 minute 56 seconds, however, the first 21 scenes are shorter, averaging only 1 minute and 41 seconds. Its not just the shortness of the scenes but also the fact that almost every scene at the beginning is in a completely different physical location. This movie covers a lot of ground in the first 30 minutes. My feeling is it could have been better if the movie ran for around 140 minutes. Events at the beginning unfold rather fast, making it hard for the viewer to get their bearings. I imagine it was intended to give a sense of the chaos as must have been felt around 1939-40.
Initially I had a hard time figuring out where some of the scenes were located. Like when the movie goes from 1939 to 1943, I thought the German Baron was still in France since Germany occupied France after 1940. It turns out he is in Germany somewhere near Kiel. I had to re-watch the beginning to catch this and a few other details. When Charles parachutes onto a beach, he is in Poland.
Essentially everything that happens in the first half hour is to convince the Germans that Denise is a French traitor. Charles character doesn't blink an eye while he destroys (directly in some cases and indirectly in others) innocent peoples lives to carry this out.
Since Anthony Franciosa's role as Charles requires him to be rather cold and all business, he doesn't get a chance to show much emotion in his part. If you watch closely, Charles is not as cold as his exterior shows. By using subtle pauses in lines and just a quick reflective look, you can see that sometimes he is internally questioning the cost this mission is taking on his soul.
The majority of the movie is very serious, one of my favorite scenes is where Charles is playing a drunk to fool two German guards. This is the lightest scene in the movie. Other than that there really is no comic relief.
There are a couple of really good lines from this movie. One is about not being able to love and appears very near the movies end. The other I will give below.:
After Charles feels responsible for causing the death of General Marchois, he volunteers himself to do the dangerous mission rather than picking a subordinate. Charles superior, General Grieux exclaims,"Sometimes working out a sense of guilt is good for the soul." To which Charles replies," I don't have a soul, and neither do you."
The take aways from the movie: Its hard to really tell how much good the Deuxième Bureau really did (in this movie anyway) There was a cost to convince the Germans that Denise was a traitor. There were unintended casualties and consequences. My thought is that the fast pace of the movie was by design of the director. It helps to show why Charles character is all business and never takes time for niceties.
By the way the Deuxième Bureau didn't truly exist in 1943 as it was dissolved in 1940 with the armistice France made with Germany. However the term Deuxième Bureau was still used to refer to the remaining French intelligence.
To sum up. This isn't a typical World War II movie. It doesn't cover any specific battle. The plot gets fairly involved so the viewer has to do a bit of work to get the enjoyment out of the movie. I find it to be a wonderful change of pace from WWII action flicks. Michael Constantine gave a great performance as Ladislov. Constantine would have been a perfect roboman in a Doctor Who series. There was nice friction between Anthony Franciosa's and Anjanette Comer's characters. Watch the faces of Charles and Denise at the end. It shows more of what was lost than any spoken words.
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