The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp ★★★

Disappointed to find myself mostly unmoved by this (the first time that has happened with an Archers film); its decades-spanning chronicle of a gregarious but egotistical British officer, his professional experiences and romances and gradual decline, is kind of a military variation on Goodbye Mr. Chips, its epic sweep harnessed apparently to boost morale at home, led by an impressive if not altogether engaging performance by Roger Livesey. The colors pop as always, and Deborah Kerr is good in all three of her roles and great in the one that casts her as a marvelously brassy army driver, but after nearly three hours, the episodic story feels insubstantial, and our connection with Livesey's Clive Candy means to be touching because of cumulative subtleties, but he may be the least interesting and most farcical character in the film, especially in comparison to Anton Walbrook as his lifelong friend, a German he injures in a duel early on, whose allegiances are intriguingly mixed. Many of the great virtues here are purely technical; and there's little of either the exciting inventiveness or the wise human perspectives of the writer-directors' best work, though it does feel strikingly modern compared to other propaganda films of the period.

(This is my anti-military bent talking and I really try not to let it affect these reviews, especially when it comes to WWII films, but the notion that the United Kingdom -- or the other Allies, for that matter -- didn't "fight dirty" and cause atrocities in the World Wars or other conflicts is... troubling, as is the message that beginning to do so would be a positive, noble change. Though you can certainly apply some of the dialogue to the recent preposterous American handwringing over how to "handle" neo-Nazis.)