Jesse Eisenberg stars as legendary mime artist Marcel Marceau in JVenezuelan Jewish writer/director Jonathan Jakubowicz’s new film Resistance. Set in occupied France during WW2, this touching if flawed drama tells the story of how Marceau and his brother Alain helped save the lives of thousands of orphaned Jewish children from the Nazis by joining the resistance and taking them safely across the Swiss border.
As a young man growing up in Nazi occupied Europe, aspiring Jewish actor Marcel Mangel ( Eisenberg) has no wish to get involved in the war, choosing instead to pursue a career in art and comedy. While his impersonations of Charlie Chaplin raise a few laughs at the local cabaret, Marcel’s father (Karl Markovics) - the town’s kosher butcher - would prefer for his son to take over the business one day.
Marcel’s life is thrown into upheaval when France is invaded by Nazi forces under the Vichy government. Changing his name to Marceau in the hope of passing for a non Jew, Marcel, his brother Alain (Félix Moati) and childhood friend Emma (Clémence Poésy) decide to move to Lyon and join the resistance. In Lyon the group comes face to face with Klaus Barbie (played brilliantly by Matthias Schweighöfer), the infamous Lyon butcher who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of French Jews in Nazi concentration camps.
Jakubowicz's handsomely executed production is let down by a rather pedestrian screenplay. Having said that, there are some well performed and undeniably tense moments showcasing Eisenberg’s brilliant ability to jump from comedy to straight acting.
Although Resistance asks some pertinent questions about the level of collaboration during the occupation, the film is let down by a bizarre decision to tell the story through the means of a flashback narrated by General Patten (played by Ed Harris) addressing American GIs after the liberation of France. This device adds absolutely nothing of value to the plot and ultimately only serves as a distraction.
Overall, a well acted and beautifully directed drama narrowly misses the mark, but by no means diminishes the importance of the story it seeks to tell. A lesser known story about resilience and hope let down by a weak execution.