Those changes sure add up... — 6 years ago
I usually try to critique a movie based on a book that I have read without resorting to the usual, “the book was so much better” route, but it is hard not to go there with this movie. I was a little excited when I first started watching the film because the first ten minutes sticks to the book very well, before the screenwriters decided to careen off in a different direction. I was okay with some of the changes that they made (the ending, leaving out the monkey, cutting out several characters) because you expect that when you adapt a long book into a movie. There is simply not enough time. And I was even okay with changing a few other things (like having Madras around a lot more while taking Carlos’s story almost entirely out of the picture) to give the movie a better flow. But all the little changes in the end, added up to a movie very, very different in tone from the book. The book is a tragic love story that shows the horror of war as a horror, something people had to survive. The movie, in true Hollywood fashion, instead glamorized the war, the heroism, etc. The pieces are all still there (Madras is guilty of being very brutal to his own people if they are believed to be traitors; Gunter has to make the moral decision between orders and friends), but they lack the impact of the book because the entire movie has a glossy finish. When you make so many small changes, they really add up to a movie that is not anywhere near as good as the book. It is a shame too, because I think the book could be made into a brilliant movie. Let’s hope for a remake somewhere down the line.
I would like to add, though, that when I first read the book, I thought Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz were incredibly miscast, but when I watched it I actually enjoyed their performances. And why, oh why, couldn’t they have shown Madras go through his transformation from a man who wants to be a hero into a man who has become consumed with hatred and politics? Christian Bale could have shown that so well. Instead, we get to see him grow a scruffy beard (wow, what a character arc!).