Artisan // 2002 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Mark Van Hook (Retired) // February 16th, 2004
Sometimes the darkest moments give birth to the brightest miracles.
Pity poor Linda Hamilton. After exploding onto the radar in the early 1980s with her starring role in The Terminator and becoming a TV star on the Beauty and the Beast series, Hamilton scored only two major hits in her post-'80s career, starring, of course, in Terminator 2: Judgment Day and in the Pierce Brosnan volcano flick Dante's Peak. Now, in 2004, she's been reduced to starring in Canadian-produced TV pictures.
That being said, Hamilton's latest endeavor, Silent Night, a 2002 movie produced for the Hallmark Channel, isn't half bad -- in fact, for what it is, I'd say it rates as slightly above average. Despite a high implausibility factor, it gets quite a bit of mileage out of its resoundingly good intentions and at least two or three notable performances.
Set in Germany towards the end of World War II, Silent Night tells the story of a German mother, Elisabeth Vincken (Hamilton), and her young son Fritz (Matthew Harbour, Equilibrium), who flee their home for their isolated hunting cabin on Christmas Eve, 1944. In only a short matter of time, three American soldiers happen upon them (Romano Orzari, Alain Goulem and Michael Elkin), one of whom is badly wounded. The mother and son offer aid to the soldiers, but their unstable relationship is soon threatened by the appearance of three German soldiers, and after narrowly avoiding bloodshed, Elisabeth forces them all into the uneasy and volatile situation of spending the night together in the cabin. But because of her undying resolve and the innate good will of the soldiers, their ostensible hatred of each other soon blossoms into trust and, eventually, friendship.
The film is supposedly based on a true story, but I imagine that enormous creative license was taken with the original story, especially in terms of the time frame. Honestly, would German and American soldiers, whose hatred of each other was so fierce, become friends after spending only a single night together, even if that night did happen to be Christmas Eve? Maybe it's the cynic in me, but I'm just not sure I buy the walls between these men coming down in such a short period of time, Christmas cheer or no Christmas cheer.
But despite the obvious implausibility of its premise, the sentiments shared by the film are sincere, and they're augmented by some solid performances. The soldiers, especially Orzari as Private Rassi, are all earnest and, in fact, rather subtle, or at least as much as can be expected from a TV movie. Unfortunately, the one exception in the acting department is Hamilton herself, who often goes over the top, and is crippled by an extremely unconvincing German accent. Elisabeth's stubbornness is supposed to be one of the principal factors in bringing these men together, but Hamilton seems to interpret this as a license to overact, rather than showing her resolve through subtle forcefulness. It's a shame, too, because so much of the film feels genuine, that Hamilton's performance repeatedly pulls the viewer out of it. She drags the overall film down to the level of mediocrity, so that what we're left with is a decent TV movie, but nothing more.
Artisan's DVD of this Hallmark production is as vanilla as they come, sporting an adequate full-frame transfer that appears slightly better than most TV transfers I've seen. Color saturation appears solid and contrast is stable, with only a minuscule amount of edge enhancement present. The audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, and gets the job done about as well as one can expect. No extras are included.
It's hard to condemn a film whose intentions are so honest, and that is so sincere in its message, but too much of Silent Night feels pedestrian for me to give it an outright recommendation. Fans of Linda Hamilton and families looking to impart some good Christmas cheer would do well to give it a rental, but I can't imagine anyone else giving it a second thought. Case dismissed.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated