Thursday, November 13, 2008

David vs. Goliath

I don't usually recommend more recent movies, mostly because more of my movie-watching time is spent watching older stuff. However, there's a really good 2003 movie airing on IFC tomorrow that I'd like to recommend. I Am David airs on IFC at 9:35 AM and 3:15 PM ET.

Based on a novel by Anne Holm, I Am David tells the story of a young Bulgarian boy in 1952. He's up against a big goliath in the form of the Communists, who have set up a string of concentration camps, along the lines of the Soviet gulag. Our hero David (movingly played by Ben Tibber) is in one of these camps, trapped for reasons unbeknownst to him. Seemingly the only person he can trust is an adult fellow prisoner (Jim Caviezel of The Passion of the Christ), who one day gives him a sealed envelope, tells him how to escape and find a backpack with a few supplies, and to make his way to Denmark.

Why Denmark? Well, that's part of the story I'm not about to give away. David does get out of the camp, and proceeds to make his way to the nearest port in a non-Communist country, that being Thesalonniki in Greece. He stows away aboard a boat headed for Italy, scared to death of being caught. After all, having grown up in a concentration camp under brutal dictators, one thing you quickly learn is not to trust anybody. As David tries to make his way to Denmark, he meets some people who may or may not be willing to help him, but whom he believes won't really help him.

Until, that is, he meets a Swiss artist played by Joan Plowright. By this time, David has been underway for some time, tired and hungry. She lives alone, and puts David up at her small cabin while David begins to learn that perhaps he can trust some people.

I Am David is a journey movie in the long tradition of great movies like Saboteur or Harry and Tonto. There's quite a bit of coincidence that happily helps our hero escape from the bad guys just when it seems things are at their bleakest, and the good people (like Plowright, or an Italian girl David saves from a fire) who show up in just the right place at just the right time. But that shouldn't take away from the fact that I Am David is an excellent movie. Ben Tibber is outstanding; the rest of the cast is more than good enough; and there's some beautiful cinematography to boot. The only possible problem is the flashbacks that might make the movie a bit difficult to follow at times, as every time David begins to think he might be able to trust somebody, he has a flashback to what happened in the concentration camp.

That, however, is only a minor quibble. I Am David is well worth watching, and is also happily available on DVD should you miss tomorrow's showings on IFC, or don't even have IFC.

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