Rather good WWII drama
22 January 2002
This isn't a perfect film, but it is well worth a watch or two. Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion is one of my very favorite films, and in comparison This Land Is Mine is weak. Even in comparison to Rules of the Game which, while often considered the second best film ever made, I find rather flawed, it has weak direction. In its own right, This Land is Mine is quite a good film. Just don't expect another Renoir masterpiece. The direction is pretty basic. Anyone could have directed it, and I was hoping that Renoir would have brought a more personal passion to the project. Hollywood does generally have a tendency for neutering great European directors (though I know Renoir made a couple of films in America that are considered to be great). The script is decent, but nothing too special. The story involves a French town occupied by Nazis, espionage by the French Resistance, and a man who sticks up for freedom. It's pretty obvious, but 1943 wasn't a time for subtlety. What makes this film above average are its performances. That Charles Laughton was one of the greatest actors who ever lived is well known. His performance here is amazing. His courtroom speech, and I don't like those much generally, is very good. Maureen O'Hara is very good, too, but I wish her part was bigger. She has a couple of great scenes, but her character is not well developed. George Sanders gives a great performance, too. I've only seen him in one other film, the fabulous All About Eve, in which he played the venomous fishwife Addison DeWitt. I think his performance here is even better. So check This Land Is Mine out if you ever get the chance. 8/10.
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