The English Patient

* * * *

Visually stunning adaptation of Michael Ondaatje's book about love, betrayal and loss before and during the second World War. Ralph Fiennes is the title character, a horribly burned man recovering in a makeshift hospital on the Italian countryside. Juliette Binoche is Hana, the war-weary nurse who dedicates herself to caring for the patient. Eventually joining Hana in the converted villa are Caravaggio (Willem Dafoe), a thief turned spy who may know more about her patient than he lets on, and Kip (Naveen Andrews), a Sikh working as a sapper to defuse the mines and unexploded bombs that litter the Italian countryside. As time goes by, the English patient begins to recall his history. He is actually Count Almasy, who was part of a multinational expedition team exploring the dunes of northern Africa. During the expedition, he began a torrid affair with Katharine (Kristen Scott Thomas), the wife of one of his colleagues. This story, in flashback, is told in parallel with the blossoming relationship between Hana and Kip. The look of this film is a visual feast, with terrific desert vistas that hearken back to Lawrence of Arabia. The story is a feast as well, with both storylines well thought out and intelligently interwoven. The English Patient is lengthy (clocking at over two and a half hours), but well paced, and never seems over-long. Director Anthony Minghella does an excellent job of guiding the film to an enjoyable mix of passion, thrills and sorrow. The acting is superb all around. Fiennes and Thomas are standouts with their passionate affair, and Binoche deserves credit as the tender nurse. The English Patient is a labyrinthine film, with plenty of mysteries and secrets all around, and it is a film not to be missed.

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