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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

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Dragan Antulov review follows movie review
2.  Brian Koller read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
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5.  MrBrown read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review

Review by Dragan Antulov
1 star out of 4

In 1990s "Miramax" reinvented itself - at first it was known as the champion of American independent cinema. These days it is best known as the "Oscar" machine - studio that makes expensive, pretentious movies clearly designed for the single purpose of gaining as much of Academy Awards as possible. In past few years "Miramax" was quite successful in doing that, and one of the more spectacular coups was THE ENGLISH PATIENT, 1996 epic melodrama written and directed by Anthony Minghella.

Success of THE ENGLISH PATIENT can be partially explained by the plot that combines elements of two beloved "Oscar" winners of the past - CASABLANCA and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. Another reason is the script's literary basis in the form of prize-winning novel by Michael Ondaatje. The film begins in North Africa during WW2. British biplane is shot down by German anti-aircraft artillery and its badly burned pilot (played by Ralph Fiennes) gets rescued by Arab nomads. At the end of 1944 in Italy he finds himself in Italy as a patient in Canadian military hospital, unable or unwilling to declare his identity. Hanna (played by Juliette Binoche) is a Canadian nurse who gets intrigued by a mysterious disfigured man. Knowing that his life is about to end, she leaves her post and brings "English Patient" to an abandoned monastery in order to care for him in his last days. There she gets visited by Kip (played by Naveen Andrews), Sikh bomb disposal expert within British Army, and Caravaggio (played by Willem Dafoe), mysterious character who thinks he knows something about true identity of "English Patient". In the meantime, the "English Patient" remembers late 1930s when he used to be Count Almassy, Hungarian explorer accompanying British expedition mapping the Saharan desert. There he befriended Geoffrey Clifton (played by Colin Firth) and later began torrid extramarital affair with Geoffrey's wife Katherine (played by Kristen Scott-Thomas).

All those who sit through 162 minutes of THE ENGLISH PATIENT are going to be awarded by John Seale's beautiful cinematography, couple of incredibly effective shots of desert, splendid costumes and powerful and very credible performance by Kristen Scott-Thomas (and the acting talent is not the only thing Thomas reveals in this film). Unfortunately, all of the above represents the only reason why would anyone have to endure this film. The narrative structure that melts the past with the present was unfortunate - the "past" North African segment, full of adventure and exotic surroundings is much more interesting than Italian "present" with its pedestrian events and the boring and completely unnecessary love affair between Hanna and Kip. Even more problematic is the lack of likeable characters in the film - all the visual splendour and "romantic" atmosphere can't hide the fact that the audience must root for women who cheat on their husbands, aristocrats who collaborate with Nazis and nurses who desert their posts and abandon their wounded comrades. To make matters worse, some of the characters and subplots aren't explored enough, leaving impression of THE ENGLISH PATIENT as unfinished film. WW2 buffs among the audience would have to suffer another Hollywood travesty in the form of German paratroopers landing in Tobruq 1942 - scene that looks great but has little do with historic reality. The acting also leaves much to be desired - with exception of Scott-Thomas, everyone in the film has made rather bland performance. And that includes even Juliette Binoche, despite her "Oscar". In short, THE ENGLISH PATIENT represents one of many recent Hollywood products that gave "Oscar" such a bad name.

Copyright 2003 Dragan Antulov

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