The Forgotten Battle is a gripping war picture.
This review of the Netflix film The Forgotten Battle does not contain spoilers.
The Forgotten Battle (De Slag om de Schelde) is a Dutch war film that happens to be one of the most expensive films Holland has ever produced at 14 million dollars. The story follows a trio of characters as they cross paths over the Battle of Scheldt. A series of battles was overshadowed after Normandy opened up shipping lanes so the Allied forces could resupply their troops by the end of World War II. Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. (The Thing), Battle follows composite characters — British Allied pilots (Tom Felton, Jamie Flatters), a dutch soldier forced to fight for the Nazi’s (Gijs Blom), and Dutch siblings (Ronald Kalter and Susan Radder) working for the German resistance.
Despite overwhelming odds, the Allies have taken back Antwerp and must release the hold of Scheldt, which consists of some small islands flooded by the Germans. The British pilots crash land as they begin their trek to join Allied forces. Meanwhile, the brother and sister duo have obtained vital information from the Holland Nazi-occupied forces. A map will assist the primarily Canadian contingent during the battle.
The script by Academy Award-nominated scribe Paula van der Oest (Zus & Zo) is at its very best when she shows hows these characters intersect. You’ll find that the most famous actors aren’t the main focus of the story, while other lesser-known actors who remain in the background begin to establish themselves only to be quickly taken away. It’s not the intense, gritty battles in the trenches or even the visually impressive aerial sequences (albeit, I’m not sure how they may hold up on a bigger screen). The tension builds between how the story pits the characters against each other, with one another, or how they interact.
The interplay can be remarkably honest for a war film. Sure, The Forgotten Battle has its tropes, even though I’m hesitant to downplay any heroic cliches simply because they have been done before. They became cliches because of actual heroic deeds, after all. Take, for instance, there is a scene with Flatter’s young English pilot, William. He sees a young woman holding his gaze as she begins to hyperventilate her last breaths. Does he hold her hand and tell her it’s alright? No. He doesn’t come close to her. He turns his head and covers the side of his face. This is so he doesn’t have to deal with any additional trauma.
The Forgotten Battle is filled with refreshing narrative storytelling choices that usually would feel cheap. This is rare for the genre. A film with small little character studies about the spoils of war where no one is the victor.
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