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On the Greek island of Cephallonia in 1940, doctor's daughter Pelagia Iannis (Penelope Cruz) is engaged to fisherman Mandras (Christian Bale). When Mandras leaves to fight the Italians on the Albanian border, Pelegia writes him 100 unanswered letters and fears he is dead. After Greece is forced to surrender to Germany, Italian troops occupy Cephallonia and order Pelagia and her father (John Hurt) to lodge Captain Antonio Corelli (Nicolas Cage). An attraction between Corelli and Pelagia develops before a wounded Mandras returns and learns the truth. In 1943, Italy surrenders to the Allies and a jubilant Corelli expects to be returned home. When German reinforcements ambush Corelli and disarm his troops, he decides to join forces with Mandras and the Partisans and resist the German advance.

Lovers of Louis de Bernieres best seller may be disappointed by some elements of this adaptation (particularly the ending) but most audiences should find this a pleasing if not particularly inspired rendering of the material. The time and place are interesting; a beautiful island in the Ionian sea (it was filmed in Cephallonia itself) about to be engulfed by the war ravaging the rest of Europe. The first half is reminiscent of 'Mediterraneo' as Corelli and his merry men - conscripts yet to experience combat - sing their way into the hearts of the locals and even charm German captain Weber (David Morrissey) with their easy-going ways. It's pretty enough to watch although you do wish Corelli's mandolin strumming would get Pelagia's pulsebeat humming just a little more quickly. The draggy pace peps up once the Germans arrive in numbers and passions take on a more urgent note, drawing us more closely into the drama. As a glossy romance in dangerous times, this has all the classic elements and does a reasonably good job of marshalling people and events to its heart-wrenching finale. The chemistry between Cruz and Cage is barometrically sufficient to make the love story work (even if their accents are wobbly at times) and solid contributions from old pros John Hurt, as Cruz's wise old medico father, and national Greek treasure Irene Papas as Bales' stern mother, brings gravity when needed. Clipping twenty minutes from the first half would have made this a much tighter, more exciting tale. As it stands it comes home strongly but it's a bit of a wait getting there.
Richard Kuipers

It was always going to be a big ask to translate Louis de Bernières’ novel of love and war to the big screen; but Captain Corelli’s Mandolin largely succeeds. While lovers of the book may bemoan the necessary short cuts taken with the work, the result is a surprisingly compelling film. The mix of grand romance set against war brings to mind some of the great dramas – from Waterloo Bridge to The English Patient. Although this film isn’t in that league, John Madden creates a story that works within - and occasionally transcends - the genre. Of course, the magnificent backdrop of Cephallonia helps, and lends a touch of authenticity. The accents of the English speaking cast however are far from authentic, and occasionally irritating. The film’s themes are sensitively handled for the most part; although the key issue of collaboration is a little clumsy and at times inconsistent. The movie intensifies as it progresses and the second half has a power that belies the first half’s portrayal of the occupation as an idyll. Nicolas Cage gives a winning performance as Corelli, employing just the right blend of inner strength with joie de vivre. His love scenes with Cruz are mostly believable and the chemistry between the pair grows stronger as the film unfolds. Cruz for her part is suitably headstrong yet vulnerable, and gives Pelagia just a touch of earthiness. John Hurt is, as always, a joy to watch as Dr Iannis and provides the film with its calming centre. The choice of Christian Bale however has to be questioned. Try as I might, I just couldn’t buy him as a Greek fisherman (maybe it was his role in American Psycho). Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, for all its faults, never falls into the trap of being overblown; and ultimately works as an epic love story on a human scale.
David Edwards

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CAST: Nicolas Cage, Penélope Cruz, John Hurt, Christian Bale, David Morrissey

PRODUCERS: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Mark Huffam, Kevin Loader

DIRECTOR: John Madden

SCRIPT: Shawn Slovo (screenplay), Louis de Bernières (book)


EDITOR: Mick Audsley

MUSIC: Stephen Warbeck


RUNNING TIME: 127 minutes




VIDEO RELEASE: February 13, 2002

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