Based on a novel, this 'what if' historical thriller is set in an alternative 1944 where Britain has been invaded by the Nazis. London has fallen; Birmingham and Manchester are under siege, and German troops are moving through the Welsh valleys to seek out and steal hidden artworks and artefacts. Meanwhile, the men from one valley have left their farms and fields, gone to join the fight, without a word to the women they have left behind to face the Germans and somehow run the farms.
A small party of German soldiers is detached to the area, and their thoughtful, war-weary officer senses an opportunity for a quieter life in rural Wales, away from the brutality of the eastern front. Although his men receive a hostile reception from the women, they gradually become accustomed to each other, and the delineation between cooperation, confrontation and collaboration becomes blurred with increasing familiarity and the simple, shared tasks of day to day life.
With a brilliant set-up like that, this should have been a stunning film. Instead it's curiously stilted and muffled. Iwan Rheon puts in an excellent performance as a young lad indoctrinated to be a resistance fighter, no matter what the personal cost. But his mentor, played by Michael Sheen, makes only a few strangely stunted appearances, and the German characters -- commanding officer apart -- are scarcely given the opportunity to rise above two-dimensional caricatures.
The miserly special features (three miniscule mini-docs and a commentary; no subtitles) reveal part of the problem. Resistance on DVD runs to less than an hour and a half and the book is far longer, and the behind the scenes footage shows that whole story arcs, characters and important scenarios have been hacked out from the final edit.
That's a real shame, because the rest of the film shows genuine promise, an intelligent plot, and it showcases a couple of outstanding performances. But the actions of the protagonists in the rushed conclusion are baffling, incomprehensible and unrewarding. And the whole pace of the film feels wrong: not surprising when you understand that many of the scenes which were intended to denote the passage of time have been snipped, leaving the viewer confused and unsettled.
There are time when less is more, but this wasn't one of those moments.