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Friday, June 15, 2012

ILUMINADOS POR EL FUEGO / BLESSED BY FIRE (2005)

This Argentinian pic from Tristán Bauer shows how the humiliating loss of the Falkland Islands (the Malvinas had Argentine prevailed over Britain) continues to resonant. The memories come flooding back to one vet, now a reporter, when he visits a psychologically troubled soldier-pal, now in a coma after a suicide attempt. The film then jumps back to 1982 to give witness to the ineptly conducted war, the horrible conditions & the sadistic military discipline that made a bad situation hopeless. The film has a lot going for it technically, the recreations are often harrowing, but Bauer neglects to vividly personalize his three main grunts, reducing them, and hundreds of other conscripts, to bland ‘everymen.' He does better at particularizing a few incompetent officers, but can’t maintain a lot of tension to one-sided battles that are all routs & retreat. (Oddly, the ultimate responsibility of the military leaders at home is hardly touched on.) At the close, Bauer stumbles badly, bringing a survivor back to the Malvinas for a bit of easy, unearned sentimentality in his old fox-hole. Much better is an earlier scene that shows a pick-up soccer game breaking out spontaneously after the army’s final retreat. Loosely scripted & unforced, it shows what missing from the rest of the film.

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