Published on April 19th, 2011 | by Chris2
Thanks to indie director Chris Grega for sending me a copy of his film, “Rhineland.” Once again I have to cede my penchant for big-budget hollywood productions and go, “HOW did you pull this thing off?!”
Because (for the most part) this picture is pretty danged good. I “say for the most part” since, well, I wasn’t all that taken with the acting, at first. But that notion quickly faded when the action started, and barely let up.
When a replacement anti-tank squad gets dropped off in the middle of the 1945 winter, in the middle of nowhwere, Calvin Mayer (Derek Simmons) and the squad find themselves snatched up by a mine platoon led by Sgt. Bowen (Paul Wendell) and Lt. Westman (Travis Estes) and their expectations are quickly thrown on the ground and stomped on, as they get tapped for mission after mission until… well I don’t want to spoil it all, since there are some twists I didn’t expect. Primarily, though, its about Mayer and how he quickly and unwillingly finds himself in the same shoes as Bowen…. Bonds are made, friends are lost, and fears overcome…..
Two things really took hold of me while watching this. First off, the production. From the opening sequence (and be sure to watch the extras, glad they added this) its clear that this was a no-holds-barred labor of love to get things right. With the help of some WWII reenactment groups and the like (I don’t have the details handy) they managed to piece together a more complete and more-or-less accurate inventory of uniforms, hardware, vehicles, etc. than I’ve seen in a lot of hollywood productions. It’s really damned impressive, and its actually noticable, right down to some of the weapons and details. I realize it isn’t 100% perfect (from some other reviews I’ve read) but, just wow, man.
Then there’s the direction, most notably during the combat sequences. It’s just frenetic and intense. At times it was highly reminiscent of scenes from Band of Brothers or Private Ryan. Further proof that you don’t need a big wallet to pull this kind of thing off. Tons of handheld “following” shots, getting right into the mix and pulling no punches. The editing and pacing here is excellent as well, keeping you right in the fight, without drawing you into endless ‘rattattat’ scenes as so often happens.
Something else I have to mention that I really liked here. Was the sound and effects production, or maybe I should say lack of “production” here, if that makes sense. There really isn’t (at least not noticably) a lot of obvious sound work and effects added here. The weapons sound like you would expect them to sound in the middle of the woods on a quiet winter morning. Each with its own particular sound and character. Grenades and shells don’t explode with huge fireballs and billowing smoke, and they don’t here either.
Also of note are the extras on the DVD. If you want to get into the mind of a filmmaker and know *why* some decisions are made, regarding what gets kept, what gets thrown out, why certain things are done…. The “making of” and “deleted scenes” here are excellent. Well explained without dumbing anything down, I have to appreciate that. The effort and thought that went into production really comes across in the extras as well. (Good move on the opening sequence, too, Chris. You were absolutely correct about making a good first impression!)
Like I said in my review of The Thundering 8th, passion and intentions go a long way towards making a good film, especially when it comes across in the final product, like it has here. I have to go high, with a final 7/10.
Link: 88mm Productions
Set in March, 1945 during the battle known as “The last great killing ground in the west”, RHINELAND tells the story of a young replacement thrown into an under-strength mine platoon. A burned-out lieutenant and a bitter sergeant are his only guides as he struggles to come to terms with the brutality of war during the final bloody months of World War II…
Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
Audience Rating: Unrated
Manufacturer: VCI Entertainment
Original Release Date:
- Derek Simmons
- R. Travis Estes
- Paul Wendell
- Christopher T. Macke
- Brock Roberts