Movie Reviews: Night Train to Munich, The Palm Beach Story, and The Damned United

Night Train to Munich (The Criterion Collection)When I’m in work work work mode, I have to have something that relieves the pressure, at least for a bit. For me, that usually ends up being movies. (If you haven’t noticed by now.) This weekend, I had the chance to watch three different movies, all of them very good and well-worth recommending. Let’s start with a classic: Night Train to Munich. It stars Rex Harrison (a much much younger version of Professor Higgins, except this one is gutsy enough to go undercover as a Nazi). There’s a man in Prague who knows how to make super armor for tanks. He flees the country before Hitler can get him, but his daughter’s captured. I’d tell you more about it, but really, I don’t think I should. This is one of those movies you ought to discover as you go. I was surprised by how twisty turny the plot was, considering it came out in 1940. (Also fascinating to see a war movie that was made and released right in the middle of the war.) Great movie, directed by the excellent Carol Reed, who also did The Third Man. Three and a half stars.

The Palm Beach StoryWe move now to The Palm Beach Story, a film done by one of my now favorite earlier directors, Preston Sturges. You know all those romantic comedies, where the bride and groom almost don’t get married, but after much hilarity, they finally meet at the altar and live happily ever after? What happens to them? Sturges explores that question in this film, definitely funny but also with quite the streak of deconstructionism running through it. Parts of it would fit in just as well today as they did then. (Other parts–the roles of African Americans, for one thing, are woefully out of date and even offensive at times, but that was a part of the film’s time.) Three stars for me, maybe three and a half. I’m still a bit undecided. But it’s on instant streaming, and you should check it out.

The Damned UnitedAnd finally we come to The Damned United, the film Tom Hooper did before The King’s Speech. One of the best sports movies I’ve seen, particularly because it doesn’t fall into many of the stereotypical sports movie tropes. Yes, you have the underdogs, and yes, you have the favorites, but the movie really isn’t about underdogs beating favorites. It’s about people and their relationships, which I realize as I type sounds like an awful thing to make a sports movie be about, but it works in this one. The coach of the underdogs becomes so obsessed with showing the favorites that their way of winning is wrong that he gives up all sense of human decency. I don’t recall a movie recently where the protagonist is such a jerk–and yet somehow likable. Impressive to pull something like that off. Three and a half stars for sure on this one. (Although as a warning to some–you know how there was that big debate about The King’s Speech and the use of the F-word and it’s R/PG-13 rating? Yeah, well, let’s just say nobody debated about it in this one, although all uses of the word are heavily accented, and I suppose you can just pretend they’re using some other word. Like frook. That’s not insulting or upsetting at all, is it? It’s frooking congenial, even.)

Anyone seen any of these three? Speak up–what did you think?

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