Writers and Directors: Matthew Hill and Landon Johnson
The most significant technology of World War Two wasn’t the spitfire, the V2 or even the U-boat, it was in fact, the radio, at least in Matthew Hill and Landon Johnson’s film Resistance 1942 available for digital download. Set in war-torn France, this interesting drama looks at the inspirational radio broadcasters who defied Nazi occupation to produce unauthorised programmes and announcements and the personal sacrifices they made to inspire resistance.
On the trail of pirate radio star Jacques, the evidence leads Gestapo Officer Klaus Jager and his assistant to a city location where Jacques is hiding in a rundown block with his daughter Juliet and a middle-aged Jewish couple the family are protecting. When a flight from some soldiers leads Juliet to the office of Swiss banker Andre, a friendship develops that whisks the entire group to Andre’s house on the Cote d’Azure where Jacques hopes to continue his secret resistance work.
Originally entitled Burning at Both Ends – in reference to a poem that Jacques reads in the final scene – Resistance 1942 is primarily set in 1944 as the pressure to terminate dissident radio broadcasts creates a ticking clock scenario that eventually works quite well. The early scenes in which the artfully bedraggled group suffer torments, are chased through the streets and cough elaborately are overly sentimental and, with Greer Grammer’s perfectly styled twenty-first century hair seemingly unaffected by poverty and fear of discovery, pretty unconvincing.
But once the action moves to the sunny South of France and Jason Patric’s Andre brings a quiet, albeit unnerving, gravitas to the film, the story and its twee group of freedom fighters perk up enormously – suddenly living in a mansion on the Cote d’Azure with some nice clothes proves a miraculous cure for Agnes’s tubercular cough for example. But writers Hill and Johnson manage the action far better here too and with the net closing in on the location of Jacques, they resist the urge to insert a dramatic standoff in a crumbling street and instead focus on a tense dinner party as Andre must prove his loyalty to his German guests.
Patric gives Andre enough dubious motive to make this final section of the film genuinely gripping as his proximity to the much younger Juliet, who he dresses in his deceased wife’s clothes, causes discord within the newly formed household. With a role in finance that proves equally controversial, whether Andre will capitulate to the pressure of his Nazi guests and betray his charges is well managed and Patric’s performance is nicely layered.
Cary Elwes gives Jacques an earnest heroism that never really delves beneath the surface. We learn next to nothing about his former life or why he is risking it all to broadcast his messages of hope. By extension, it’s unclear how the all-but-silent Agnes (Mira Furlan) and the permanently irritable and reckless Bertrand (Judd Hirsch) fell in with this family while Grammer’s Juliet fulfils her only role as a glamorous but wounded plot device.
Resistance 1942 has a solid point to make about the value of illicit radio broadcasts in galvanising resistance movements across Europe and eventually it translates these themes into a tense and enjoyable thriller.
Signature Entertainment presents Resistance 1942 on Digital Platforms and DVD 10th January.