Dark Blue World

Imagine the faux love triangle of the bloated Pearl Harbor, shift it halfway across the world and mix in some flashbacking a la The English Patient and the result is Dark Blue World, the Czech bid for the Best Foreign Film. Hopefully, the Academy will know better and pass this film over for a nomination, not because it is bad, but because it is bland. This is also director Jan Sverak's second attempt at the Oscar (he won Best Foreign Film in 1997 for Kolya). The premise is interesting, but becomes lost amidst the tedious love story. In World War II, Czech air force pilots flew for the RAF after the Nazis invaded their land. Later, when Communists took over Czechoslovakia, they imprisoned these pilots fearing they would rise against them. Dark Blue World shifts from a prison camp in 1950, where Franta Slama (Ondrej Vetchy, All My Loved Ones, Return to Paradise Lost) reminisces about his experiences in England in the early 1940s.

Franta and Karel Vojtisek (Krystof Hadek) are eager to fly for the RAF after escaping the Nazis in their homeland. The RAF grounds them, favoring British pilots over the Czechs. Franta is older and accepting of the fact that they will fly when the time comes. Karel is younger, brash, and headstrong. He wants to shoot down Nazis. They eventually are able to fly, but Karel is shot down over the countryside. He survives, and looks for a phone at the house of Susan (Tara Fitzgerald, Rancid Aluminum, Childhood). Susan's husband is lost at sea, and Karel falls madly in love with her. She does not return his affections, and instead falls for the older, more mature Franta. Franta and Susan keep their relationship secret from Karel, who is sad because of Susan's ambivalence towards him.

Sverak (The Ride) and screenwriter Zdenek Sverak (Kolya, Ruffiano and Sweeteeth) stumble by not addressing either the love story or the war adequately. They split their efforts leading to two unfulfilling plot threads. The Sveraks virtually ignore the ardor that the Czechs have for fighting, or their hatred for the Nazis. Aside from Karel, they also do not go deeply into the relationship between Franta and Susan. Their attraction comes from a mutual sense of loneliness that slowly develops into something more. When Karel discovers what is going on, he is noticeably angry, but then things taper off. The portions of the story in 1950 seem to be the most pointless. They serve little purpose except to frame the earlier sequences. Removing this portion of the movie may actually make things flow smoother. However, Dark Blue World does look beautiful. It's all-too infrequent dogfights have lots of dramatic tension, and Fitzgerald, Hadek, and Vetchy do give good, if somewhat mellow, performances.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 59 minutes, Czech, German, and English with English subtitles, Rated R for sexuality/nudity.

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