Sunday, November 21, 2010

For Whom the Bell Tolls - Movie - Review

I thought this was on AFI's top 100 movies of all time, but it's just an old classic.  It's a good classic though.
The movie is based on Ernest Hemingway's novel by the same name.  Hemingway was involved in the production of the movie, even choosing Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper for the leading roles.  However, Hemingway was reportedly unhappy with the movie because it removed most of the political content associated with its context in the Spanish Civil War.
The lead character, "Roberto" is an American voluntarily assisting the guerrilla, mountain bandits fighting for "the Republic" of Spain -- against "the Nationalists" or fascists who began a military coup and civil war.  Before the war, he was a Spanish professor in the USA, but now, he travels by the name "Ingles" (English man) as an explosives expert, blowing up bridges and trains on secret missions.
This movie shows many of the painful realities of war, especially for the underdogs.  However, it also offers a complex set of characters.  Although, the over-all plot is fairly straightforward and predictable, the individual character development (especially of the supporting roles) is beautifully complex and surprising.  For example, a woman ends up being the unspoken, then spoken, chief of the mountain bandits, and she is exceedingly loving in her rough and tough, lonely way.  Also, the former chief continually alternates between good and bad, so that at the end of the movie, the audience is still left with ambiguous feelings about him.
Incidentally, after seeing Ingrid's hairdo, Sarah said, "Now, I see why all the grandmas have short, curly hair."  That is what the ladies of highest fashion were wearing when they were young, so that image is etched in their minds as beautiful.  It makes me wonder if our generation will stick to the styles of today's stars even in 40-50 years.
Overall, I would say this movie is a good watch.  However, be prepared to stay a while; it's almost 3 hours long!  But, it lacks some elements of greatness (largely in it's predictable plot, and partly in some of the cheesiness of the romantic dialog).  I give it 3J's: JJJ.
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