Michael Akkerman’s Reveille marks the feature-length debut of the writer-director. The World War II drama starts with the 1929 Geneva Convention standards for treating prisoners of war. The story begins when a squad of German soldiers gets into a quick bout with an American one. The Nazis are taken prisoner, and then artillery shells rain down around everyone. Led by 18-year-old Sarge (Jared Becker), the victorious troopers — the Polish Oliver (Bart Voitila), fun-loving Leo (Joe Bongiovanni), tender Lattie (Maxwell David Marcus), and tough-as-nails Carlis (Jake Powers) — must keep their enemies safe, so they take shelter in a cave.
Meanwhile, Freder (Yony Martin), Walter (Bernd Wittenben), and Ewald (Christopher Erik) contemplate what the U.S. soldiers intend to do with them. As the time in the cave seems to keep extending, the Germans try to express themselves and their desires, but no one speaks the other’s language. Do the exhausted, overworked combatants find their humanity and see the captured people as human, or does war turn everyone into monsters?
Akkerman makes a sprawling war, a literal world war, into something intimate with Reveille. Much like how the soldiers from different countries must view each other as more than the enemy, the filmmaker forces viewers to look at war films in a new light. There’s really only a fight, the shootout at the beginning. It is exciting, but really, aside from that, this is about these people are forced to interact in an unthinkable situation. The characters are very engaging and come across as more than the stereotypes they appear to be at first. Of course, there are loves left behind, but that never becomes a harbinger of who may die as the film ticks toward the ending.
“…combatants find their humanity and see the captured people as human…”
Cooper Shine’s cinematography is incredible. The beautiful yet unforgiving terrain is vividly captured. The lighting creates a strong mood, getting darker and more bleak as things become even more desperate. Heck, even the main location of the cave feels appropriately claustrophobic without becoming visually stale.
Reveille also gets a lot of mileage from its cast. Each actor is perfectly cast and brings a lot to their respective roles. Martin and Becker are especially engaging. During a terse conversation of who signed up for what exactly, the tension and anger between characters is keenly felt by everyone on screen and, thusly, by everyone watching.
Reveille is a little long, but it admirably reaches its goal. The cast is superb, and the characters are nicely fleshed out. The themes of humanity being lost during war and whether it can be found again are intelligently observed, and the ending is perfect. Akkerman should be very proud of everything he accomplished here.
For more information, visit the official Reveille site.
"…Akkerman should be very proud..."