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Audience: A-III – adults


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Bloody good film

“1917” (Universal) is a great movie about the Great War. By turns harrowing and lyrically beautiful – and deeply humane throughout – director and co-writer (with Krysty Wilson-Cairns) Sam Mendes’ gripping historical drama displays both the horrors of trench combat and the endurance of fundamental decency and spiritual striving.

Our entree into the grim spectacle of the global conflict comes as two friends serving with the British Army on the Western Front, Lance Cpls. Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), are dispatched on a dangerous mission across enemy territory.

Their task is to warn a nearby commander, Col. Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch), that, by carrying out an imminent attack, he will be falling into a German trap. Their mission is made all the more urgent by the fact that one of the 1,600 men under Mackenzie’s command facing slaughter is Blake’s brother, Joseph (Richard Madden).

Mendes keeps the stakes high and the pace unflagging as the duo journeys across a once-fruitful but now ruined landscape. While the relentless challenges lying in their path may strike some as a bit extreme, most will be too busy rooting for the success of their quest to notice.

Unsparing in its portrayal of misery and desperation, “1917” also is luminous in its affirmation of civilized values. This is especially true during an encounter between Schofield and a refugee mother who has taken shelter in a basement as she tries to care for her infant child.

Mendes brings as light and artful a touch to this peaceful interlude as he does to the anti-war theme that pervades the picture. Like a good novelist, he takes to heart the admonition to show rather than tell.

The tension between cynicism and faith also is dealt with in a subtle way. Thus when a burnt-out officer, Lt. Leslie (Andrew Scott), finds that Schofield and Blake are determined to carry out their orders, despite what he regards as hopeless odds, he “anoints” them with the contents of the flask he’s been drinking from while reciting a prayer from the rite then known as Extreme Unction.

Yet, at a climactic moment, the singing of a transcendent hymn transfixes a company of soldiers as they’re about to go into battle – and the audience along with them. While the message conveyed by this scene is broad and implicit, it’s also – like “1917” as a whole – profoundly moving.

The film contains much combat violence with gore, numerous gruesome sights, slightly irreverent humor, a fleeting sexual reference, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, several rough terms and occasional crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

Copyright ©2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


‘A Hidden Life’

Audience: A-II – adults and adolescents


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A modern martyr

In 2007, Franz Jagerstatter (1907-1943), a devoutly Catholic Austrian farmer martyred by the Nazis for his stance as a conscientious objector, was declared blessed.

In the luminous, though deliberately paced, drama "A Hidden Life" (Fox Searchlight), writer-director Terrence Malick paints a striking and memorable portrait of Jagerstatter, one that will be especially prized by believing viewers.

The plot focuses on the happy home life of the gentle protagonist, played by August Diehl, sacrificed in order to be obedient to his conscience. Motivated by faith, Jagerstatter was determined not to take the oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler that was demanded of all those drafted into the Wehrmacht during World War II. Refusal of the oath would ultimately mean execution.

Along with his much-loved young daughters, Jagerstatter also would be leaving behind his wife, Franziska, known as Fani (Valerie Pachner), with whom he shared a deep spiritual and emotional bond and under whose influence he first became serious about his religion. So, as they wait for the possible news that Franz has been conscripted, she has to struggle with the radical consequences of the commitment she inspired.

Primarily set amid the splendors of the Austrian countryside, "A Hidden Life" is beautiful both to view and to contemplate. Yet the movie requires patience since it largely consists of scenes of ordinary domestic activities and farming chores, many of them overshadowed by the dread of what, at first, may lie ahead and later certainly does.

Still, the film succeeds in building a sturdy bridge of sympathy between the audience and the central duo as they live out their doomed existence together – an idyll interspersed with drudgery. Thus by the time of Franz's death, depicted with both deftness and sensitivity, attentive moviegoers will feel the weight of his loss to the full.
The film celebrates Jagerstatter’s quiet heroism, but the portrayal of the parish priest and bishop is ambivalent at best. Bishop Fliesser of Linz (Michael Nyqvist) is noncommittal about Franz’s refusal to take the Nazi oath and, although Father Furthauer (Tobias Moretti), their pastor, accompanies Fani on her last visit to Franz, he first counsels the latter that he has a duty to the Fatherland and is later so anxious to save his parishioner's life that he advises him to take the oath without meaning it.

In a sign of the times, the real Franz apparently speculated, after their meeting, that Bishop Fliesser might have feared that he was a Gestapo spy out to trick the prelate into saying something dangerous.

Fani lived long enough to attend her husband's beatification. "A Hidden Life," which draws on the 2009 book "Franz Jagerstatter: Letters and Writings From Prison," edited by Erna Putz, ends with her yearning to be reunited with Franz, an eventuality that it is not presumptuous to trust transpired at her death, age 100, in 2013.

The film contains mature themes, scenes of physical violence and an ambiguous portrayal of Catholic clergy. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

Copyright ©2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (December)

Admission, L (PG-13)
After Earth, A-III (PG-13)
Amour, L (PG-13)
Anna Karenina, A-III (R)

Beautiful Creatures, L (PG-13)
Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, A-III (PG-13)
The Big Wedding, O (R)
The Bling Ring, O (R)
Broken City, L (R)
Bullet to the Head, O (R)

The Call, O (R)
Christmas for a Dollar, A-I (PG)
The Collection, O (R)
The Conjuring, A-III (R)
Conviction, L (R)
Creature, O (R)
The Croods, A-I (PG)
Crooked Arrows, A-III (PG-13)

Dark Skies, A-III (PG-13)
Dead Man Down, O (R)
The Dictator, O (R)
Django Unchained, L (R)

End of Watch, O (R)
Epic, A-I (PG)
Escape From Planet Earth, A-I (PG)
Evil Dead, O (R)
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, A-III (PG-13)

The Five-Year Engagement, O (R)
Flipped, A-III (PG)
42, A-III (PG-13)

Gangster Squad, L (R)
Getaway, A-III (PG-13)
G.I. Joe: Retaliation, A-III (PG-13)
A Good Day to Die Hard, L (R)
The Grace Card, A-II (PG-13)
Grown Ups 2, A-III (PG-13)
The Guilt Trip, A-III (PG-13)

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, O (R)
A Haunted House, O (R)
Haywire, L (R)
The Heat, O (R)
Hellbound?, A-III (no rating)
Hereafter, A-III (PG-13)
Hitchcock, A-III (PG-13)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, A-II (PG-13)
The Host, A-III (PG-13)
Hyde Park on Hudson, O (R)

Identity Thief, L (R)
The Internship, L (PG-13)
Iron Man 3, A-III (PG-13)

Jack Reacher, L (PG-13)
Jane Eyre, A-III (PG-13)
Jobs, A-III (PG-13)
Jurassic Park, A-II (PG-13)
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, A-I (G)

Last Ounce of Courage, A-II (PG)
The Last Stand, L (R)
Les Miserables, A-III (PG-13)
The Lucky One, A-III (PG-13)

Mama, A-III (PG-13)
Man of Steel, A-III (PG-13)
The Master, O (R)
The Mill & the Cross, A-III (no rating)
Monsters University, A-I (G)
Moonrise Kingdom, A-III (PG-13)
Movie 43, O (R)
Mud, A-III (PG-13)

Nitro Circus: The Movie 3D, A-III (PG-13)
Now You See Me, A-III (PG-13)

Oblivion, A-III (PG-13)
Of Gods and Men, A-III (PG-13)
Olympus Has Fallen, L (R)
The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure, A-I (G)
Oz the Great and Powerful, A-II (PG)

Pacific Rim, A-III (PG-13)
Pain and Gain, O (R)
Paranoia, A-III (PG-13)
Parental Guidance, A-I (PG)
Parker, O (R)
Peeples, O (PG-13)
People Like Us, A-III (PG-13)
The Perfect Family, O (PG-13)
Pitch Perfect, A-III (PG-13)
Planes, A-I (G)
Playing for Keeps, A-III (PG-13)
Promised Land, A-III (R)
The Purge, O (R)

RED 2, A-III (PG-13)
R.I.P.D., A-III (PG-13)

Safe Haven, L (PG-13)
Scary Movie 5, O (PG-13)
The Sessions, O (R)
Seven Psychopaths, O (R)
Side Effects, L (R)
Sinister, L (R)
Snitch, A-III (PG-13)
Somewhere Between, A-II (no rating)
Star Trek Into Darkness, A-III (PG-13)
Stella Days, L (no rating)

Texas Chainsaw 3D, O (R)
This Is the End, O (R)
To the Wonder, A-III (PG-13)
The Tree of Life, A-II (PG-13)
Turbo, A-I (PG)
21 and Over, O (R)
2 Guns, L (R)
Tyler Perry's Good Deeds, A-III (PG-13)
Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, A-III (PG-13)

Warm Bodies, A-III (PG-13)
We're the Millers, O (R)
The Way, Way Back, A-III (PG-13)
White House Down, A-III (PG-13)
World War Z, A-III (PG-13)
The World's End, A-III (R)

Zero Dark Thirty, L (R)