Against The Wind Review

In Against the Wind a team of experts in sabotage are assembled, trained and equipped to cause problems for the German forces occupying Belgium during WWII. In both location and in terms of war-effort, the film would seem to lack the glamour of traditional war-movie heroism, but the film has a few points in its favour and even manages to pull off a few surprises.

Under the command of Ackerman (James Robertson Justice) an international team of spies are put together to strike at key targets in Belgium such as the burning down of the Records Office in Brussels, causing maximum disruption for the German forces. The agents are aware that their actions are only small inconveniences for the Nazis, but every little success by the Resistance gives a little more hope to Belgian citizens. Father Philip (Robert Beatty) is one of the key players, gathering information and sending it back to headquarters. Another team of agents is parachuted into Belgium – Michèle (Simone Signoret), Johnny (Gordon Jackson), Max (Jack Warner) and Emile (John Slater) to help a key resistance figure escape from prison. But a spy has betrayed their mission and put their lives at risk.

The setting may not be the most romantic and the actions of the resistance in Belgium may not be the most glamorous actions of WWII, but the film manages to make it reasonably interesting by highlighting how great the danger is to these men and women who risk their lives to undertake seemingly minor acts of sabotage. The film tries to make it all a bit more glamorous with various disguised sabotage devices such as exploding dead rats, sausages containing bombs and booby traps in cow-dung, but it’s far from the sexiness of spy gadgets in the James Bond films. The film’s other main theme is the sacrifice these agents must make in their personal lives. Emile has to undergo cosmetic surgery to the extent that his wife can no longer recognise him (it doesn’t however make John Slater look any prettier!). Jacques (Paul Dupuis) becomes a high-ranking Gestapo officer, which makes him an invaluable agent, but unfortunately will not allow him to keep many friends in Brussels. Then Michèle, played splendidly by Simone Signoret, resists a romantic attraction to Johnny, knowing that emotional attachments to fellow agents in deadly circumstances can only lead to unbearable anguish.

Despite the various romantic complications and attempts to enliven the plot with spy devices and suicide pills, Against the Wind doesn’t really have any serious tension and is a bit unrealistic in the action/heroics department. The film however does have a very strong cast who all deliver fine performances, some good location shooting, one or two tense near-misses, a few twists and some unexpected fatalities that keep the film’s plot moving along.

Presented as pretty much a barebones release, the actual presentation of the film isn’t bad. There are quite a few very fine marks and scratches on the print but nothing that stands out or proves distracting. Overall the greyscale tones are well graduated, with good, strong blacks and a fair level of sharpness and clarity throughout. There is no real grain to speak of either. The mono audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and is of average quality. It’s a bit on the harsh and crackly side, but dialogue remains clear and there is not much background noise or hiss. There are no hard of hearing subtitles provided for the film, nor is there any translation of the incidental and conversational French used now and again throughout the film. There are no extra features on the DVD.

Against The Wind is very much a low-key war film, focusing on the behind the scenes war-effort and character detail rather than the all-guns-blazing style of the bigger budget war action movies. In its own way it has a few moments of suspense and drama and some good performances. The DVD is a standard no-frills back catalogue release and it’s perfectly adequate.

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Last updated: 23/06/2018 13:56:03

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