8/10
2 boys on the run from the Nazis, a great success
17 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
"Un sac de billes" or "A Bag of Marbles" is the newest work by Emmy-nominated Canadian filmmaker Christian Duguay. This film is based on a novel and it is also a remake of a film with the same title from the 1970s, over 40 years ago. I have no seen this old film and not read the novel, so I cannot elaborate on parallels and differences between these works and this new 110-minute film. I am also not familiar with Duguay, but I know that I sure liked what I saw here and this film is a fine example of how it is still really possible with the right talent and approach to make films about the dark years between 1933 and 1945. The film plays in France from start to finish, so you will hear mostly French language and should go for a good set of subtitles if you aren't fluent in this beautiful language.

I think this was a really good ensemble performance where nobody was really great, but everybody was good and added their share to the overall outcome. If I had to pick one, I'd maybe go with Patrick Bruel, who was a really great surprise in here as I think I knew the name only referred to his singing career. The most known name is probably Christian Clavier thanks to his Astérix performances, but he really only plays a minor character here. The film is interesting from start to finish, but I would say there were three scenes that had me on the edge of my seat. The first would be the slapping scene that should prepare the boy(s), the second would be the trap that they could try to get out, but would have been killed and finally the ending that works perfect from the realistic and touching perspectives. Certainly one of the most emotional scenes from 2017. (Honorable mention to the scene when the boy near the end screams out his religion multiple times that he had to hide for so long. This one was certainly walking the edge between cringe and powerful, but as he basically saved a collaborator that moment the scene makes a great impact too, it's up to you to decide if for the right or wrong reasons, I myself am still undecided too.) This is also one of the film's greatest strengths, it may be dramatic from start to finish, but it's always authentic in my opinion. And it is really easy to feel for the characters, for example to wonder if the guy who helps them getting away for a low price early on is really good or evil. Or before they are caught if the driver is trying to trap them when the older boy cannot open the door on his side of the car.

Overall, this is just a really well-done WWII film from start to finish that offers absolutely everything you could hope for if the context/time interests you as much as it interests me. For me it is one of the very best 2017 releases I have seen by now, top3 probably. I would not be surprised if France submits it to the Oscars and it could make a nice run there too. Top9 would be the minimum, a nomination seems likely and I would not be too surprised to see it as a contender for the win even. It's better than "A nagy füzet" (The Notebook) and as good as "Wolfskinder" (Wolfschildren), 2 films that deal with a similar subject and that you may want to give a go too if you watched and liked this one we have here. I really would be surprised if you didn't. Big thumbs-up from me. Highly recommended.
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