Mark Reviews Movies

An Ordinary Man


2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Brad Silberling

Cast: Ben Kingsley, Hera Hilmar, Peter Serafinowicz

MPAA Rating: R (for language, some nudity, and brief violence)

Running Time: 1:30

Release Date: 4/13/18 (limited)

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Capsule review by Mark Dujsik | April 12, 2018

There's no denying that the General (Ben Kingsley) has a way with words. He's the antihero of An Ordinary Man, a fugitive war criminal wanted for crimes against humanity for his participation in the ethnic conflict that occurred in the former Yugoslavia. To hear it from him, he was only doing his duty for his leaders, his country, and his people. We don't have to like him, but we do have to believe him.

The movie finds itself in a bit of a conundrum. It acknowledges the fact that this is, by all accounts (including his own), a bad man. It wants to understand the character's motivations and the personal consequences of his actions, but director Brad Silberling's screenplay makes two, separate miscalculations.

At first, it seems a little too self-satisfied with the cleverness of its setup, as the frustrated General is moved from safe house to safe house, escaping prosecution with the aid of a few allies and still admired by the locals of this city in an unnamed country. The movie's initial tone is more comedic than examining, as he strikes up a relationship with a younger maid named Tanja (Hera Hilmar).

He tries to teach about the traditional ways of life, but she has little knowledge or little caring for such things. The General's side of the conversation comes in the form of lengthy speeches, which Kingsley performs with aplomb. There are hints and, later, some confirmation that his violent reputation isn't some jingoistic myth. Tanja, who clearly has a hidden agenda, becomes a target of his anger and his need to hold power over people.

Once the character has to confront the crimes of his past, Silberling makes his second error in judgment. The General's motives are simplified to such a degree that the movie comes close to excusing him. If it doesn't take it that far, the screenplay certainly wants us to have some sympathy for this man, who doesn't see himself as a devil but knows that the majority of the world does.

The third act is deathly serious—a severe shift from the near-lighthearted nature of the opening section—and ultimately ambiguous. The final point of An Ordinary Man is that justice and punishment are relative ideas, and perhaps, if we actually comprehended the General as more than a caricature, the resolution might have made an impact.

Copyright © 2018 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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