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Today's Date is:

Dark Blue World - Special Edition


Reviewed by: David Litton
Genre: Drama
Video: 2.35:1 widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Language: Czeck
Subtitle: English
Length: 115 min
Rating: R
Release Date: 05/28/2002
Studio: Columbia Tristar Pictures
Commentary: Feature commentary with director Jan Sverák and producer Eric Abraham
Documentaries: Making-of documentary
Featurettes: None
Filmography/Biography: None
Interviews: None
Trailers/TV Spots: Trailers
Alternate/Deleted Scenes: None
Music Video: None
Other: Making of visual effects, aerial symphony, photo montage, DVD-ROM weblink
Cast and Crew: Ondrej Vetchý, Krystof Hádek, Tara Fitzgerald, Charles Dance, Oldrich Kaiser
Screenplay by: Written by: Zdenek Sverák
Produced by: Eric Abraham, Jan Sverák
Directed By: Jan Sverák
Music: Ondrej Soukup
The Review:

Ever notice how movies seem to come in twos? 1997 gave birth to red-hot actioners "Dante's Peak" and "Volcano;" 1998 spelled out the end of the world with "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon;" 1999 chilled audiences with "The Haunting" and "House on Haunted Hill..." are you beginning to see a pattern here? ***

2001 has had more than its fair share of such films, and "Dark Blue World" falls into this category. The story of two pilots going off to fight a war, while falling in love with the same woman, sounds strangely similar to this year's earlier release of Michael Bay's "Pearl Harbor," though without the grandiose special effects or a plot that centers around a major historical event. And while it's a much better film than its predecessor, "World" has its own quota of shortcomings and failures. ***

I liked the fact that there is no bombastic, supercharged event we're supposed to anticipate, as in "Pearl Harbor," which centered on the bombing of the Hawaiian naval base and used that to loosely structure a tepid love triangle around history. Here, the story takes place in Czechoslovakia, during World War II when hostilities were just beginning for smaller countries being occupied by German forces. Many Czech air force pilots, unwilling to watch their homeland fall into enemy hands without the ability to put up a fight, make their way to England, where they train to become pilots for the Royal Air Force. ***

Among these men are Frantisek Sláma (Ondrej Vetchý), an older man who leaves behind two loves, his dog and his woman, and his young comrad, Karel Vojtisek (Krystof Hádek), a hot head who carries with him a strong hatred for the enemy that threatens to endanger his life during training. Sláma, as the father figure in Karel's life, advises him on matters of remaining calm and flying well; their bond is presented to us just enough so that we don't feel as if we're being manipulated to believe the two are like family. ***

Visually, the film is quiet, soft-spoken, and at times, arresting. We get the usual images and shots of soldiers enjoying their company, the comraderie of planes in the sky, and the open expanses of countryside and wide ocean than unfolds beneath the pilots during their missions. But unlike Michael Bay, director Jan Sverák is able to instill a deep sense of beauty and effervesence into his setting, rather than use it as the basis for his plot. ***

Less involving, however, are the two romantic subplots the movie supplies to the two male lead characters, who finds themselves falling in love with Susan (Tara Fitzgerald), an Englishwoman who runs a homeless shelter for small children out of her home, and whose own husband has been missing in action for more than a year. At first, Karel is taken with her; the two share a night together, and it seems as if they have something. But then he introduces her to Sláma, and they become lovers as well, but not after she writes Karel a farewell note pleading with him to leave her in peace. ***

This is where the manipulation kicks in. We're automatically supposed to believe that these people hold strong feelings for one another, despite the strong absence of believable dialogue or any emotional connection to them. Susan is a hypocrit of sorts, falling for these two comely soldiers, yet holding steadfast to her belief that her husband is still alive (she even refuses to refer to him in the past tense). We feel a certain sense of boyish first love in Karel, the only believable emotional drive of the triangle; Sláma, however, is portrayed less-than-favorably, considering he has a potential bride waiting at home for him. ***

It's a shame, really, considering what could have been. I wanted to be moved by the fragile friendship between Sláma and Karel, but when the limitation ends up being a treacly love triangle, everything becomes routine and eventually listless. The characterization and forced emotions displayed here aren't as lopsided as "Pearl Harbor," but "Dark Blue World," even with its wonderful use of cinematography and old-style war cliches, appears unable to give us a solid reason to feel much of anything for the people who make up its story.

Image and Sound

Not much to comment on here. The images are crisp at times, somewhat smeared in others, while the sound quality is painfully quiet, and almost difficult to hear.

The Extras

I didn't much care for "Dark Blue World," but the DVD does have some redeeming qualities. For one, I particularly enjoyed the director/producer commentary, which details many of the film's visual effects, also seen in the revealing visual effects plates also included. The documentary, in Czeck with English subtitles, is the standard behind-the-scenes look at the four-year process of the film's making, while the aerial symphony and photo montage feature shots and stills from the movie.

Commentary See above
Final Words: If you've already seen and/or own "Pearl Harbor," save yourself the time and energy of diving into yet another war epic/love triangle.


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June 5, 2002