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PBIFF ’14 Review – “The War I Knew”

April 11, 2014

Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 6.18.17 PMWorld War II films are a dime a dozen, but British filmmaker Ian Vernon, decided to tell a human story based in the backdrop of the European Theatre of the WWII. While the story of Private Barrows is fairly an interesting character study, few of the supporting characters aren’t fleshed out quite properly, along with few other underwhelming technical mishaps.

Set days after the D-Day invasion, Private Johnny Barrows (Paul Harrison), a British paratrooper, is separated from his squad after the entire group was wiped-out by German soldiers. Private Barrows is lost behind enemy lines, inexperienced, and unaware of his surroundings, which accounts to a greater level of fear. Johnny soon comes across two other British soldiers (), and a silent US Private. The four men band together, learning what it means to survive a harsh world, and yearn for the opportunity to leave this war and return home.

Let me start with the positives, first off, the character of Private Murphy (James Boyland), perhaps the most complex supporting figure of the entire film, has this obsession of control and order, even in a uncontrollable scenario he’s forced into. All this makes him out to be a ticking time bomb, the result of his actions are truly terrifying. Barrows for the most part is a sympathetic hero, that has the task of leadership thrusted upon him, teaching him the meaning of adulthood.

[Ian] Vernon’s cinematography is quite beautiful, utilizing the surroundings of Darwen & Prestwich, UK were awe-inspiring moments to see. But, for the remaining technical feats this movie was challenged with, most of it is completely underwhelming. The digital effects come off as last minute After Effects work, the sound was not up to the best of its ability, especially when most of the film is dialogue driven, it was hard to understand a word anyone was saying. There’s a loud muffle/hum sound throughout the entire film, that simply doesn’t do the film any favors.

With technical issues aside, I think the issue that got to me the most was the films end all resolution, which was sped up with not enough exposition. The underdeveloped character work between the American soldier and the female French freedom fighter was something I didn’t think needed to be in the film at all. I’m not sure why that seemed relevant, but it ultimately it went nowhere for me. Then, we’re given a complete ending explanation in the form of “end credits text”. Those text descriptions are something I cannot stand in any historical drama film.

Look, there’s a good movie hidden in here somewhere, and I truly believe that with a heavy recut, new sound design work, and some punched up visual effects, it can be a good movie. Making a film is not easy, believe me I know. I worked on a feature last summer, and it can be filled with countless trials and error, but without a well-rounded post-production set-up, all you have is hours upon hours of random footage. Editing makes the movie.

GRADE: C+

Aaron Shore, is a contributing blogger for the film sites of Hudak on Hollywood & Midnight Reviews.

You can follow Aaron on Twitter @DoubleAAProd

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