The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Flame and Citron

Wars produce more stories than could ever be told in a lifetime.  There’s battles, campaigns, soldiers, generals, and that’s just the actual fighting.  Add the home front, the government, the build-up and aftermath just to name a few more.  Last year’s 2009 Flame and Citron deals with such a story that is little known and is a prime example of all the smaller stories that are on more of a personal level than a battle that could turn the tide of war.

It is a Norwegian film telling the story of two resistance fighters who became infamous for their actions and hated by the Germans, causing them to offer $20,000 for either of them dead.  Through the years, their names have been forgotten and even now with a movie released about them, details are sketchy on their involvement during the war.  Their names have become more of legend than fact, but with this movie, their stories are at the ground level; very emotional, very human story about the effect war takes on one’s psyche.

It’s early 1944 and two resistance fighters, Flame (Thure Lindhardt) and Citron (Mads Mikkelsen), have earned a reputation.  With orders from a superior, Flame and Citron kill Dutch German collaborators working with the occupying forces, and in some extreme instances, even German officers.  But as the bodies mount, the effect of killing so many people begins to wear on the two men.  Flame has little human contact with anyone other than Citron and starts to see a woman also working in the resistance.  Citron can’t sleep without taking pills while his efforts have driven his wife away.

But as rumors spread that the Allies will invade soon, the two killers receive orders to lay off on the hits.  Their superior disregards and continues to feed them names to take care of.  The more they kill though, the more they start to question what it is they are doing.  Are they actually helping the war effort?  Innocent civilians are killed as retaliation for every one of their hits.  However they feel about what they do, the walls are closing in.  The Germans have descriptions of what they look like, and the rewards continue to grow for information on them.

I enjoyed this movie on several levels, one being the actual science of performing these hits.  Flame and Citron are as good at what they do as is possible, and even then, there are glitches.  Flame is usually the killer while Citron is the getaway driver.  But even as good as they are, it rarely goes smoothly.  They discover quickly a person will say anything to save their lives, anything at all.  There are a lot of these scenes, and director (Ole Christian Madsen) handles them well, making them appealing to watch but also shows the effect their actions have on these two men.

The personal side is one of many levels that works so well here.  Flame joins the resistance because he has a hatred of the Germans dating back to an incident when he worked as a waiter at a German restaurant.  He was never close to his father and has no close friends other than Citron.  Lindhardt is incredible in the role, a savage killer who is somehow still sympathetic.  He refuses to wear a hat even though his bright, wavy red hair is an obvious giveaway to his identification.  Part of me wonders if he has a death wish from the get-go, and his refusal to cover himself is a way of daring the Germans to coming after him.  Flame is a man who struggles to trust because of his background, but also because trusting someone forces him to open up and leave himself vulnerable to being turned in.

The two men have their differences, but they fight for the same reason; because they think they’re in the right, and the Germans are vile, cruel forces.  Citron throws up uncontrollably the days the Germans march into Copenhagen and promptly joins the resistance.  He is a family man that sacrifices his love for his family for his love of country.  My only other experience with Mikkelsen is as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale so it’s great to see him in a non-villainous part.  He realizes he’s driving his wife away, but he can’t turn away from what he believes to be the right thing to do.

My knowledge of WWII in the Netherlands extends to what I’ve picked up watching Band of Brothers and A Bridge Too Far, so in other words…not much.  ‘F and C’ brings 1944 Copenhagen to life with a visual style of film noir, albeit in color.  The whole movie is full of color and a pleasure to look at.  So often war movies sacrifice visuals for effects in action sequences, but not here because if anything the action scenes are visually more interesting.  The on-location shooting is great as are the sets, locations, bad-ass older cars, and period weaponry.

SPOILERS Of course, this is a movie that can in no way have a happy ending. From the moment we meet Flame and Citron, it’s just a matter of when and how they will die.  Together they are believed to have killed around 30 German collaborators and officers, and the fact they killed that many in such a short time is remarkable in itself.  They survived in a country where their descriptions were widely distributed and known with the Gestapo and SS actively hunting them down.  This movie honors their lives and their actions.  Little may be known about them, but Flame and Citron fills in the blank spots nicely.  Norwegian movies aren’t usually in my wheelhouse, but this one is well worth it.

Flame and Citron <-----trailer (2009): ****/****

No comments:

Post a Comment