“HERO ON THE FRONT”— A War Drama

“HERO ON THE FRONT”

A War Drama

Amos Lassen

 

In 1918,  Aníbal Milhais was one of 75,000 Portuguese soldiers sent to Flanders in defense of the Western Front. During the Battle of La Lys, when his unit was forced into retreat, Milhais ignored superior orders and stood his ground in the trenches. Two German divisions advanced across no-man’s-land in front of him and behind him was his battalion of the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps and a Scottish regiment, decimated by a massive preparatory artillery barrage. Armed only with his Lewis light machine gun named “Luisinha”, he single-handedly fought off the attack by Germans and saved the lives of many Allied troops. Twenty-five years later, still haunted by the memories of war, Milhais recalls the stories that led to his fame as the soldier “worth a million men”. 

Directed by Gonçalo Galvão Teles and Jorge Paixao da Costa, this lavish period war drama won five prestigious Portuguese Academy Awards (the “Sophia”): Best Screenplay,” “Best Special Effects,” “Best Art Direction,” “Best Film Editing,” and “Best Sound”.

Milhais takes us to Flanders through a scenic “make-believe”, where myopia reacts as self-defense, and that same defense a path to dignity.

This is a true but romanticized story of a forgotten Portuguese hero from the First World War in the trenches of Flanders in 1917/18 with stress posttraumatic trauma of a more mature Milhais, already married and father of a family, chasing a wolf in 1943. There is an excess of symbolism carried in thick lines, especially in a third act that is too dispersed, but the base story is good and Miguel Borges is excellent in the older Milhais, through a cast of sober and solid ensemble  and some moments of the wolf hunt are very inspired.

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