Given the wonderful quality of Head In The Clouds I don't know how I never heard of it until I stumbled over it on the Netflix web page and decided to rent it.
This is a major movie. It is an emotionally powerful movie. It has a huge scope both in time and space, historical accuracy, an excellent, and at times complex, script, outstanding performances by all concerned, great direction, and superb cinematography. I loved it and I cried at the end.
Charlize Theron was fantastic as Gilda. I have known people such as the character she played and she had it just right. With her body language she told us she was rich, talented, cynical, very loyal to her real friends, and in the end so very brave. Her voice is such that sometimes I think she is channeling Theresa Russell.
Stuart Townsend played his part of a quiet underclass Belfast Irishman, Guy, perfectly. Some reviewers were disappointed that his performance wasn't stronger. Hey, Rambo wouldn't have survived long as a British operative in Nazi occupied Paris. Townsend triumphs in subtlety and his character narrates some of the story.
Penelope Cruz was perfect as Mia, who had been physically injured by Fascists in Spain when they came to take her brother away, presumably to be executed given that the time immediately preceded the Spanish Civil War of the 1930's.
Thomas Kretschmann is brilliant as Frans Bietrich, the personification of Nazi evil: educated, urbane, thoughtful, and completely ruthless when torturing and murdering.
The repartee among the three friends, Gilda, Mia, and Guy, during the prewar period is very realistic. I've participated in similar conversations. There are several back referencing jokes. You have to pay attention. In addition we see the best presentation of a three way sexual relationship I've ever seen on film. These three people love each other and this is beautifully communicated.
World War II was a cataclysm that shook the world. The free peoples were fighting for the life of their civilizations against what was one of the most evil regimes to ever exist through all of history, the German Third Reich. The story starts well before WWII and we are shown the good life of a wealthy young woman and her friends in Paris. We are then taken to the Spanish Civil War and on into WWII. The things portrayed in this movie HAPPENED although maybe not exactly as in the story shown; however, similar things are well documented as occurring during WWII. If one doesn't have much knowledge of the history of that period the story may seem far fetched. It isn't. For all I know the story is factual even though there is the usual statement at the end about it all being fiction.
More about Kretschmann: Toward the end of the movie there is a scene in which his character is supervising the torture of a young woman member of the French Resistance. The torturers are using the near drowning method, waterboarding is what the CIA calls it today. He is seated with his back to his underlings and gives the order to immerse her, then plays with a loose thread on his shirt cuff while timing the immersion. He fiddles with his cuff links. He is clearly bored. Just another day at the office. When he decides she isn't going to talk he gives the order to put her under and and never orders her to be raised. I have heard it phrased: "The banality of evil". Kretschmann and Duigan bring it off to perfection.
This is a must see movie. It will stick with you. Parts of it will come back to haunt you for at least several days. As I said before, this is powerful stuff.
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