Captain Corelli's Mandolin
As an advertisement for the Greek islands, Captain Corelli's Mandolin works beautifully; it's impossible to sit through two hours of Cephalonia's clear blue-green waters, white beaches, and spectacular views without wanting to book a two-week cruise. As a love story and a war movie it's slightly more problematic. Penélope Cruz stars as Pelagia, the beautiful Greek girl whose fisherman fiancé Mandras (Christian Bale) goes off to fight in the Second World War. Lack of word from him leaves her upset and, eventually, vulnerable to the attentions of free-spirited, music-loving Italian officer Captain Antonio Corelli (Nicolas Cage), who comes to Cephalonia with a host of other soldiers after the Italians conquer Greece. But their romance hits the rocks when real war (in the form of German troops) finally comes to the idyllic island. The story of Captain Corelli's Mandolin definitely has potential, but without the deeper political, historical, and emotional contexts of the best-selling Louis de Bernieres novel the movie is based on, director John Madden's film ultimately doesn't carry enough weight. Antonio and Pelagia's relationship never quite attains the momentum it needs to make the movie a true romantic epic she seems to go from disdain to passion in about a minute flat, after hemming and hawing forever and the few battle scenes come too late in the film to really catalyze Madden's leisurely pacing. Cruz has nailed the exotic smoldering thing, but there's a spark missing from her performance; solemn, big-eyed stares do not Great Acting make. Cage, meanwhile, goes larger than life as Corelli, which has a certain charm (despite the awful accent) until he makes a 180 and gets too serious for his own good. In the supporting cast, Bale and John Hurt (who plays Pelagia's father, the cryptic Dr. Iannis) are both fine, though Hurt is a little too apoplectic in some scenes. In the end, Captain Corelli's Mandolin leaves an impression not unlike Cruz's current status in Hollywood it sure is pretty, but it's hard to figure out what all the fuss is about. Universal's DVD features an anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) that is as clear as the sea it shows off, and the DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks are both up to par (French 5.1 and English subtitles are also available). Extras include a relatively dry (if informative) commentary from Madden; a music video of Russell Watson singing "Ricordo Ancor" (Pelagia's Song), preceded by an ad for the movie's soundtrack; the trailer; production notes; cast and filmmaker bios; and a link to DVD-ROM features. Keep-case.