The American Western was once Hollywood’s biggest export, though it eventually faced gradual decline and stagnation. While there have been great Westerns since the end of the golden era (1910s-1960s), the genre has more or less faded from view. This seems to be the contemporary trend regarding the popularity and accessibility of the World War II film, with the time period being returned to with almost exhaustive regularity. However, for every Dunkirk and Downfall there is The Last Witness and Auschwitz, there are always reasons to give the genre a pass when so many more modern conflicts are ripe for exploring similar (and more current) themes. However, Brian James Crewe has thrown such consideration and caution to the winds to bring us Une Libération, a short spotlighting a pair of Allied spies on the eve of Paris’ liberation from Nazi occupation.
Juliet (Marion Kerr) is an American resistance fighter in Paris, who constantly risks her life to deliver secret messages to other Allied agents. As the Nazis desperately struggle to maintain their stranglehold on the city, she descends into the sewers to meet Jean (Ross Marquand), another espionage contact. As the prospect of the war ending provides them with glimmers of pale hope, a pair of German deserters threaten to undo everything they have struggled towards.
“…a pair of Allied spies on the eve of Paris’ liberation from Nazi occupation.”
There is one word that can surmise the experience of watching this film: wow. The incredible effort put into each facet of production design, plotting, dialogue, and visuals completely blew me out of my preconceptions. The stunning performances by the whole cast are buttressed by Crewe’s well-rounded understanding of movement and pacing, with George Feucht’s on-point cinematography effortlessly involving the audience in each subtle change in tone and tension. The actors also speak English, French, and German interchangeably, always in realistic accordance with the current circumstances (rather than taking it easy on the audience), and that choice honestly made the 16-minute runtime far more engrossing and believable. I cared a lot for these characters and had a sincere desire for them to accomplish their individual and combined goals; nothing in Kerr’s screenplay ever comes across as cheap or cliche, so the weight of each choice is always fully realized, and the sampling of different genres (war, action, romance, period drama) is thoroughly awe-inspiring.
Though the World War II film may be continuing in its gradual decline into the collective memory of popular film genres, this film has injected a stunning vitality into the time period, and could act as a dazzling springboard for a larger, highly immersive project (images of Pandemic Studios’ The Saboteur as a film/series comes to mind). While it hits all of the common tropes you would expect from this kind of film, Une Libération manages to make it all fresh, enthralling, and even educational.
Une Libération (2014) Directed by Brian James Crewe. Written by Marion Kerr. Starring Marion Kerr, Ross Marquand, Matthew Temple, Mark Jaeger.
9 out of 10