In love, there are no boundaries.
Running Time: 160 minutes
US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15
Country: United States
If theres one thing Anthony Minghella loves, its a sprawling romantic wartime epic. We saw it in 2003 with Cold Mountain and, seven years previously, we saw it in this one: the multiple Oscar-winning English Patient. And, like so many of the movies which have cleaned up at the Academys annual gongs bash, its the sort of flick that youre likely to either love or hate. Its a bit like Marmite, actually.
In a nutshell (I wont go into every little sub-plot, because Id be here all day), its about a European Count (Ralph Fiennes) who ends up the sole patient of a young nurse (Juliette Binoche) after his face is practically burned off in a plane crash at the end of the Second World War. While he lies in bed in an old Italian monastery feeling understandably sorry for himself, he gradually remembers how he got there a process relayed to us viewers via a series of handy flashbacks. In the meantime, Nursey chases the affections of cheeky bomb disposal expert Kip (Naveen Andrews), Willem Dafoe skulks suspiciously around in the background wearing a pair of mittens (a prime reason not to trust him if ever there was one) and Kevin Whately does his best to stifle that Geordie accent of his.
The key question, of course, surrounds the true identity of our flaky-skinned protagonist: is he a war hero, or just an old Count? All becomes clear over the course of the mammoth 160-minute running time, but you need to be a pretty patient (arf!) type to stick with it, given that the high points are sporadic to say the least. Visually its a wondrous piece of work, theres a really impressive scene involving a sandstorm, and one of the flashbacks into the murky background of Dafoes character turns into a real edge-of-the-seater but, for every engaging instance of high emotion or top notch drama, there are three or four dragging scenes of mind-numbingly slow dialogue and oodles of outright nothingness.
The original novel by Michael Ondaatje is, by all accounts, an expansive piece of text in itself, so old Minger probably deserves a fair bit of credit for scaling it down into what were left with here. But, even with that in mind, I my interest levels came and went as the flick progressed. Emotionally it feels a little contrived, and as far as entertainment value goes its middle-ranking at best. Its interesting, but unfortunately not on any consistent level.
It's Got: A nasty skin complaint.
It Needs: Patience. Lots of it.
DVD Extras Unlike many so-called Special Editions, this one actually is pretty special. On disc 1, Minger dishes out his usual brand of sagely observations on two separate audio commentaries (okay okay, so lets call it 50% special, 50% self-indulgent). Then, take a peek at disc 2 and you get deleted scenes, Mingers Masterclass, a CBC documentary on the making of the film, a little bitty about novelist Ondaatje, cast & crew interviews, a featurette on producer Saul Zaentz, an historical piece on the real Count, filmmaker conversations, the work of production designer Stuart Craig, and the eyes of still photographer Phil Bray (not literally, mind you dont open up the DVD case and find a couple of eyes just rolling around in there. That would be disgusting). Version reviewed: The English Patient (Special Edition)  or The English Patient (Miramax Collectors Edition) (Amazon.com) DVD Extras Rating: 10/10
The luvvies cant get enough on it, but its fair to say Joe Public remains undecided and rightly so. Still, there are worse ways to pass two-and-a-half hours.