All The Queen's Men

on October 25, 2002 by Kim Williamson
It might be taken as a sign of the success, moviegoer-wise, of a festival when an audience member exits a screening and says, "All the other films I've seen here have been better, but even this one was not bad." And so it is with "All the Queen's Men," a modestly comic, modestly action-oriented World War II adventure that, in terms of authenticity, is one of those films that requires the enemy to never shoot straight. Also not straight here are the characters--well, at least in garb: Led by a gung-ho but always-in-the-doghouse U.S. officer (Matt LeBranc), a group of three soldiers stationed in England--under the tutelage of a drag queen (cross-dressing comic great Eddie Izzard)--attire themselves as women and drop behind German lines with the aim of bringing back to Blighty one of the Reich's top-secret Enigma coding machines.

Although said to be "loosely" based on a true story, the David Schneider-penned plot of "All the Queen's Men" would have to be the loosest of the loose, the Allies in the real dub-dub-2 having gotten an Enigma device off a stricken U-boat in the Atlantic relatively early in the war and so, by the time Berlin & Co. was getting bombed to the extent displayed here, the good guys had been able to read the bad guys' signal traffic for a long time. Still, under the care of director Stefan Ruzowitzky ("The Inheritors"), some fun is had by all, as the drag queen puts his fellows through their coy paces and the four venture into the heart of Nazi territory. Which, this being pleasant fiction, is not as Anne Frank-scary as it must have been: The quartet stroll about relatively openly, even attending an appropriately edge-of-weird social gathering at a German mansion, a girls' night out during which their greatest danger is being amoured by the sieg heil boys. For the macho American there're also some real romance, in the person of a librarian by day/underground agent by night (a fetching Nicolette Krebitz).

Interestingly, "All the Queen's Men," perhaps by accident, has a memorable moment that clashes with the film's lightheartedness: Before and during a bombing raid, a little girl, evidently not quite right in her mind anymore and homeless due to the ravages of previous raids, tries to attach herself to one of the four, an old British major (James Cosmo) seeing his first action ever. She calls him, dressed in his hausfrau clothing, Mommy; looking at her frail, fearful and so-small form clinging to him, the moviegoer is suddenly transported to an entirely different landscape--a terrain of true world war--than the one on which this bit of cinema is otherwise played. Starring Matt LeBlanc, Eddie Izzard, James Cosmo and Nicolette Krebitz. Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky. Written by David Schneider. Produced by Marco Weber. A Strand release. Adventure. Not yet rated. Running time: 99 min

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