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The English Patient

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The English Patient

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas
Director: Anthony Minghella
Rated: R
RunTime: 160 Minutes
Release Date: January 1996
Genres: Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Juliette Binoche, Jurgen Prochnow, Clive Merrison, Hichem Rostom, Julian Wadham, Kevin Whately, Nino Castelnuovo, Peter Ruhring, Willem Dafoe, Colin Firth

Review by Brian Koller
3 stars out of 4

"The English Patient" dominated the 1997 Academy Awards, nearly sweeping the important technical awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Score, Best Costumes, Best Editing). The film had a host of acting nominations (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress) but no awards, perhaps because the cast was not famous enough.

Impressed by the honors disposed by the Academy, a flood of people rushed to the video store to rent "The English Patient", having ignored it while it played in theaters. They were confronted with a slow-moving art film nearly three hours in length. Lots of great cinematography, a heavy dose of romance, an unfamiliar (except Willem Dafoe) cast, and a definite lack of action and stock characters.

I was a little disappointed by "The English Patient" as well. John Seale's cinematography is excellent, and the script is intelligent and appropriately sparse. But while it is a very good film, it is not outstanding. The film is slowly paced and drags at times. The half of the story featuring nurse Juliette Binoche is not as interesting as the half featuring pre-patient Ralph Fiennes. Also (this complaint is really petty) the burn victim is a dead ringer for the shape-shifter character on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine".

"The English Patient" has two storylines, one set in 1945 Italy, the other in 1938-1944 Africa. The first story has Binoche playing a vibrant nurse who believes that she is cursed: everyone that she loves dies. She falls for seriously burned Fiennes, and has him taken to a deserted monastery. They are soon visited by threatening refugee Dafoe, who suspects that Fiennes is a traitor, and Naveen Andrews, an Indian bomb squad specialist who serves as love interest for Binoche.

The story of Fiennes' jaded but impassioned character is told in intermittent flashbacks. He works for the British, making maps of Africa just prior to World War II. Lovely Kristin Scott Thomas, wife of one of Fiennes' friends, joins the expedition. Thomas and Fiennes are thrown together by events, and they have a torrid affair. Her husband (Colin Firth) suspects.

"The English Patient" is beautifully filmed, but not emotionally moving. The tearjerker ending is a little contrived, and falls just short. There is one heckuva plane crash, however.

Copyright 1997 Brian Koller

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