Hard Hitting
28 February 2008
This Land is Mine (1943)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Jean Renoir directed this drama about a coward school teacher (Charles Laughton) who must find bravery when Nazis overtake his small French town. I really wasn't sure what to expect from this film as I've read some negative reviews of it, which I really don't understand. A lot of reviews called this film dated but I think it holds up a lot better than any of the political movies of the 1940's. God knows there were countless movies made to make people feel strong about the war but this one here is very smart and intelligent about its subject matter and Renoir incredibly sensitive direction makes this a highly memorable movie. The performances are all great with Laughton turning in one of his finest performances. He perfectly shows his characters coward side at the start but his final speech in the courtroom was highly emotional and heartbreaking. The supporting cast is equally great and that includes Maureen O'Hara as another teacher, George Sanders as her informant boyfriend and Una O'Connor as Laughton's mother. Kent Smith nearly steals the show as a man who people thinks is supporting the Germans but instead has his own plans. I really found this film to be suspenseful and heartbreaking from start to finish. The movie never pulls any punches and even the uplifting ending isn't a cop out.
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