The all-around winner of the 1996 Academy Awards, "The English Patient" is a timeless love story set against the bleak conditions of World War II. Surprisingly, the movie features very little warfare but plenty of serious drama; the end result is a finely acted, well made picture that might just be a tad overrated.
"The English Patient" examines the events leading up to the disfigurement of a handsome cartographer (Ralph Fiennes) during World War II, where he subsequently cared for by a French nurse named Hana (Juliette Binoche). While her relationship escalates with an Indian bomb specialist (played by Naveen Andrews, now best known for the television show "Lost"), Almasy the cartographer reflects back on the up-and-down and ultimately tragic relationship with the love of his life, Katharine (Kristin Scott Thomas), in the deserts of northern Africa.
Directed by Anthony Minghella, the man who would follow this movie up with the beautifully-shot "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "Cold Mountain," "The English Patient" sizzles in excellence with every scene. From the spanning dunes to the intimate love affairs of the characters, the movie stirs with realism and power. The ending is one of the saddest moments of the decade.
The acting is also superb. All of the actors involved deliver their best; understandably, Fiennes and Thomas are the most powerful. Though Fiennes had starred in such great movies as "Schindler's List," "Quiz Show," and "Strange Days," "The English Patient" is what really put him on the map as a leading man. Since this movie, he's only been able to top the performance once, in "Sunshine."
While I still believe the secondary romance between Binoche and Andrews is underplayed and used as filler at times, the story is emotional, moving and never boring. At the time of this film's release I found it to be extremely overrated and dull, but now, almost ten years later, I've realized "The English Patient" is one of the finest movies of 1996.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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