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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Saul Metzstein|
scr John Paul Chapple, Steve Attridge
with Jason Biggs, Natascha McElhone, Jeremy Northam, Michael Ironside, Sean Tucker, Hilmir Snær Gudnason, Rob deLeeuw, Donny Falsetti, Benz Antoine, Harry Standjofski, Buck Deachman, Mariah Inger
release UK 14.Oct.05
05/UK Tartan 1h41
Don't call me Pederson: Biggs and McElhone
See also: Q&A WITH
EDINBURGH FILM FEST
Best Actor & Director: TAORMINA
There's a clear attempt to capture a MASH/Catch 22 vibe in this quirky military comedy. And while there's an enjoyable subversive atmosphere, the story simply isn't sharp enough to mean much of anything.
In June 1979, Rudy Spruance (Biggs) is surprised to arrive at Qangattarsa Military Base in Greenland in the middle of a mosquito infestation. Especially since he was supposed to be in Hawaii, and now everyone's calling him Pederson. The colonel (Northam) seems to exist in his own universe, while the men do whatever they like. Rudy falls for the colonel's assistant (McElhone), which probably isn't a good idea. And then he discovers a secret hospital ward and befriends a badly injured patient named X (Ironside). So what's really going on here?
There's plenty of dry and funny material here, augmented by the 24-hour sunshine, the gently subversive nature of the soldiers and Rudy's role as the base newspaper editor. There's a gently loping rhythm to the film, with absurd touches like ubiquitous puffins, a seriously lost lemon tree and the cinema's never-ending run of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Meanwhile, there are quietly absorbing story strands as Rudy stumbles into the base's secrets and woos an untouchable woman.
But the film never actually does anything with these elements. They simply swirl in the wind as we wait for everything to gel into something vaguely meaningful. There are some answers in the end, but the currents of emotion and intrigue never pay off. The message seems to be that tired old chestnut: make love not war. And the script relies far too heavily on the tired cliche of the knockout punch (at least three major plot events hinge on Rudy being unconscious).
Performances are fine--realistic and engaging. Biggs is very good as the guy with the wrong name in the wrong place doing the wrong job. Although Northam struggles with his dodgy gruff-Southern accent. In the end we're left with a lot of interesting ideas and a gorgeous-looking production (it was filmed in Iceland, and every frame looks terrific). And nothing else.
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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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