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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 13%
Average: 16%
Pretty Bad: 17%
Total Crap: 19%

4 reviews, 76 user ratings

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English Patient, The
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Solid old-Hollywood-style moviemaking."
5 stars

There seems to be no middle ground with Michael Ondaatje's popular novel 'The English Patient': either you can't put it down, or you put it down after two pages and never pick it up again. As someone in the latter group, I was still eager to see the film version. Often, the most compulsively readable books become unwatchable movies ('Sleepers'), while the most wildly unreadable books blossom into enthralling cinema ('Naked Lunch').

Writer-director Anthony Minghella's film of The English Patient makes me want to take another crack at the book. I've read that Minghella is faithful to Ondaatje's plot and time-hopping narrative, and he has found visual equivalents of the famously luscious prose that hooked so many readers (and stood between me and the story). The mysteries and surprises are still there (I will reveal none), but the romance is more central.

At its core, this is the story of a man who risks everything and loses it. We meet the "English patient" of the title (Ralph Fiennes), burned almost beyond recognition after his plane is shot down in the North African desert during World War II. In the last days of the war, he is tended in a wrecked monastery by the kindly nurse Hana (Juliette Binoche). He says he remembers nothing; his frequent flashbacks prove otherwise.

The patient, it turns out, is a Hungarian count named Almásy. Before the war, Almásy works with British cartographers mapping the sands of the Sahara. There he meets the alluring but married Katharine (Kristin Scott Thomas). A howling sandstorm finds them cooped up tight in a jeep; it's the start of a beautiful relationship, and a neat metaphor for the way their lives will continue to be sand-blasted by the fates.

Half of the movie is Almásy's bed-ridden reverie, and I expected the nurse Hana to fall in love with her scarred but yearning patient, competing with Katharine's memory. Not so. Instead, Hana finds love with the sensitive mine-patroller Kip (Naveen Andrews), and Willem Dafoe turns up as a saturnine thief who warns Hana not to put a halo on Almásy any time soon.

Minghella, best known for the honestly moving Truly Madly Deeply, doesn't shy away from overwhelming romance; he runs toward it with a clear head. And clear eyes: photographed by John Seale, this is easily the most ravishing film of the year. The sand seems to drench the actors in deep golden light; the sky is a rich, muted blue, like a still and suspended sea.

If there's a flaw, it lies with Binoche, a capable but rather opaque actress (as she was in Blue). Otherwise, the cast is impeccable. Kristin Scott Thomas finally gets the major role she deserves, and she plays it eagerly and elegantly. Ralph Fiennes, playing both an evasive, obsessed lover and a shattered wreck of a man, powerfully fuses Almásy's past and present.

Almásy thinks he can read anything: foreign languages, maps, Herodotus, people. What he can't read, tragically, is himself. And in the end he is a map of scars read by Hana. Some would credit Ondaatje for the compelling story. Duly noted. But praise is equally due Anthony Minghella for making it a fine movie.

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originally posted: 02/02/07 10:44:49
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell very good 4 stars
2/17/13 softy mcgee excellent film despite firth, who's bland as toast 5 stars
1/13/12 Simon Great imagery, ok acting, & neat interlocking details,but its a telenovela at its weak core 3 stars
6/27/11 DR Interesting novel - average film. Not a classic, not terrible. 2 stars
11/26/10 Jeff Wilder Proof that Indie does not automatically = Good. 1 stars
9/23/10 Emily Sand I'd like to see anyone try and sit through this movie after all these years. Can't be done 2 stars
2/19/10 rita pantoja Overated - I 'm now conviced that C Firth is just plain bad luck to any movie he's in. 2 stars
10/24/07 Ivana Mann Binoche is about as believeable as O.J. saying "I'm innocent."The acting in this=excrement. 1 stars
6/14/07 Jenni OMG - I almost went into a coma! 1 stars
3/27/07 fools♫gold Rather average and uninteresting; I don't know what to think of it: it made me sleep. 3 stars
12/18/06 Sepi53 Interesting, different wartime film 4 stars
6/28/06 Dani Wonderful, opulent film. 5 stars
2/14/06 Two Gun If I had not busied myself sharpening knives, would n ot have made it to the end 1 stars
12/25/05 Vega Must be the most boring and pointless movie that I've seen 1 stars
11/14/05 Michael Choose an illicit partner, get macabre results. A Godless movie. 2 stars
9/27/05 Mactheknife I resaw the English Patient last evening. It's powerful images and storyline transfixed m 5 stars
8/23/05 ES Literally & honestly the most boring movie ever made about war and wartime events 1 stars
7/26/05 Laura Lee Macleod big soppy epic should have been made 1940 3 stars
2/23/05 andrea313 I laughed, I cried. It was really moving. 4 stars
2/21/05 Nadie The critics said this was a good movie. I will never trust them again. 1 stars
2/06/05 Nobody This movie is AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL I would pay money NOT to see it 1 stars
1/03/05 UMER desrves all the accolades it received at the time it was released-wonderful movie indeed 5 stars
12/23/04 Tatiana Pretentious, overblown, and emotionally hollow. Not to mention dull. 1 stars
10/24/04 ODH Good looking film, but boring and offers nothing that hasnt been seen before. Waste of time 1 stars
9/26/04 Bucky Buckner Boone Binoche is the heart and soul and won an unexpected but deserved Oscar; rest is ok 5 stars
7/04/04 Jeff Semlow Great looking film, but overly sappy. 3 stars
6/22/04 T. Maj Self-conscious epic; pretentious and lifeless 2 stars
1/17/04 Emperor's New Clothes? Nope. Just a Fat, Ugly, Naked, Guy. The script. The cinematography. The direction. The acting. Where's the HEART? 4 stars
10/29/03 ZF Great looking but skin deep and pretentious. Kip's dignity was robbed in the adaptation. 2 stars
8/14/03 Jeannie Karlsen Although I don't usually care for sappy love stories, Ralph Fiennes makes this work. 4 stars
7/02/03 your worse goddamn nightmare The script. The cinematography. The direction. The acting. Need I go on? 5 stars
5/17/03 Andrew Carden Thomas & Fiennes Are Amazing; Great Direction. One Flaw: An Awful Performance By Binoche. 4 stars
4/20/03 Jake Carlton fantastic film making 5 stars
3/28/03 Atanu I had 3 potentials scores with me while watching this, even then i had to tell it was crap 1 stars
3/25/03 Jack Sommersby Emotionally aloof and distressingly uninteresting. Dafoe comes off best. 2 stars
1/24/03 Pinkline Jones Recommend euthanasia for the entire Cast and Director 1 stars
9/29/02 Peter Sherlock A faultless movie and superb transfre from a excellent novel 5 stars
7/19/02 Charles Tatum Slyder is so wrong; seriously boring 1 stars
3/07/02 Caravaggio, Willem Dafoe's character Two thumbs up! 4 stars
3/02/02 Jenny Tullwartz Overlong and muddled, but at least didn't have Demi Moore in it. 3 stars
2/21/02 luda hoe guy gets burned, guy reveals past, no one cares, i'm glad i didn't pay a lot to see it 3 stars
2/17/02 ACBCorp Superb cinematography, visually dazzling, average acting, overly long but worth it... 4 stars
12/17/01 bobbuttons its ok i guess, whatever 3 stars
12/02/01 travis r. sorensen watch this with a girl and you'll get laid-i guarantee it. 5 stars
11/27/01 sdfr lyrical, mysterious, poignant, heartbreaking, uplifting. It all worked very well somehow. 4 stars
8/31/01 spaceworm Someone abandon the teen critics i a cave with a bank book and no pen. 5 stars
8/31/01 Hooker with a Penis worth seeing it if not onle for the beautiful cinematography 5 stars
5/18/01 Bada Bing Crosby Worth it for Binoche ONLY..she is perfection, the rest is worthless 4 stars
4/24/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) Great performances, but I like a little more bounce for my buck. That's just me... 3 stars
2/11/01 Gary Tooze Perfect film 5 stars
2/05/01 Triumph, the Insult Comic This was the perfect movie...for me to poop on!I kid!This movie was beautiful and haunting 5 stars
12/04/00 Cristopher Revilla at first i din't get it, but later viewings i understood it, it was good, liked it!!! 5 stars
11/14/00 The EVIL Penguin Please listen to Chris Drake, Gray, and BirdBrain 1 stars
11/03/00 dan nice full frontal nudity! 4 stars
10/16/00 BirdBrain No matter how pretty it is, boring as hell. 1 stars
9/07/00 Gray Looks great, Binoche is good but very boring, very shallow and lost up it's own ass. 1 stars
7/12/00 Chris Drake "Pretty" adultery is still adultery--I like Fiennes but (so far) none of his movies 1 stars
5/18/00 Keith contrary to Seinfeld, there's no bathtub sex in it, so save your money. 1 stars
4/13/00 Heather Awesome, intelligent, well acted, well deserved the Oscars 5 stars
3/03/00 Belinda Tardini I believe this film is so successful because of the acting. 4 stars
3/01/00 Ionicera Needs to be accepted and enjoyed on its own merit and not for the surrounding +/- hype 5 stars
1/12/00 John Markham VERY,VERY BORING. 1 stars
11/29/99 Mic Beautifully cinematographed. 5 stars
10/30/99 Bozo awesome ONLY for Binoche who was great & for once an Oscar was deserved-rest of it was OK 5 stars
10/13/99 little jerry A simple love story trying way too hard for the profound.Titanic was more meaningful. 3 stars
6/15/99 Dylan Yawn...zzzz...etc.etc. 2 stars
1/24/99 Hannah I might have said it was decent if it wasn't *supposed* to be great. Made me want to vomit 3 stars
1/10/99 Dasha I don't care what you say, it WAS the movie of the year! 5 stars
1/07/99 Jo Mama This movie almost made me cry. Call me a pussy. 5 stars
11/13/98 Jules I must be fucked up or something. I didn't like it. In fact, I walked out before the end. 2 stars
10/13/98 tom wood ralph fiennes is all this movie needed 5 stars
9/27/98 katherine SUCKED SHIT!!!! i hate this film! it bored me 2 death. 2 stars
9/26/98 Maegs I loved it. I'm a girl. I couldn't help it. *weeep* 5 stars
9/06/98 Badass Wrong Whoopee! Length and desert make for great films, such as this and LAURANCE OF ARABIA. 5 stars
8/28/98 Mister Whoopee Bored me to fuck. Fiennes is a lifeless actor. Length and desert do not make a good film. 2 stars
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  15-Nov-1996 (R)
  DVD: 29-Jun-2004



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