Sep 15, 2018
Welcome back to Streaming Saturday! The films keep dropping on Netflix and I keep reviewing them. That’s how this year is working, and that might be how next year works as well. This time we have another historical drama set during the Nazi occupation, much like “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” (Episode #223), and a much more fantastic film, “Captain America: The First Avenger” (Episode #029). If you have any favorite World War II dramas, let me know at onemoviepunch.com.
Today’s movie is “The Resistance Banker” (2018), the Netflix Original historical drama directed by Joram Lürsen and written for the screen by Marieke van der Pol, Thomas van der Ree, Matthijs Bockting, Michel Leendertse, Joost Reijmers, and Pieter van den Berg, the last four writing as Winchester McFly. The film follows banker brothers Walraven Van Hall (Barry Atsma) and Grijs Van Hall (Jacob Derwig), Dutch bankers in Nazi-occupied Netherlands who decide to begin secretly funding the Dutch Resistance.
Also, a sincere apology for butchering the Dutch names in this episode, especially with this sinus infection and my lack of practice.
With all the growing fascism in the world today from far-right nationalists, it’s important that we look back through history to understand how fascist societies come into existence, and the structures that maintain them. The most obvious, and recent, example is, of course, Nazi Germany, which has had no shortage of analysis completed on it, and no shortage of films made about it, both fictional and, like today’s, based on very true stories. However, we also generally join these stories after the Nazis have already come to power and established themselves as an occupying force, which makes them easy to hate, but harder to understand. And by no means do I mean accept, because in case anyone is wondering at this point in the review, I hate Nazis and their modern counterparts, and I am definitely an anti-fascist, which should be the default mode for everyone. But if we’re going to learn the lessons of history, we need to study all of it, not just the parts that make for good movies or good stories, and that’s where I feel today’s movie falls short.
“The Resistance Banker” joins the Van Hall brothers right after the Nazis have begun their occupation and the subsequent purges. Just before the occupation, however, the Dutch had proclaimed themselves neutral, then mobilized too late to stop the Germans before they bombed Rotterdam, bringing about surrender, and the government fleeing into exile in London. We’re to believe that the Van Hall brothers were only mildly concerned about the occupation until, as one might expect, Wally learns about the purges of Jewish residents, with a particularly gruesome train scene showing families being sent off to a camp, and now the bankers decide to fight back the only way they know how. Not by massive guerilla resistance, or by subverting the machinery of empire. No, they are going to fight back by manipulating the banking industry to reserve and pay out money to fund the resistance, and showing the original organizers against the occupation, the Communist Party of the Netherlands, how it’s done. Add to that making sure we know the Nazis hated “capitalist democracy”, and suddenly we’re supposed to be cheering on bankers.
I actually think this film is hamstrung in two ways. First, most viewers are probably de-sensitized to the very real evils of Nazism, from the plethora of films inspired by the time, and the way that many in the United States and other European countries laugh off the far-right nationalists. There are certain elements that one feels must go into every Nazi-related film, and there’s nothing done in this film that hasn’t been covered before, and better I might add. The second way it’s hamstrung, though, is that it champions collaborators as resistance fighters, the same way we do in the United States right now for those in positions of power doing little more than vocally opposing this monstrous right-wing government putting children into internment camps. What exactly is the message this film is supposed to teach us about the modern day? That the bankers will save us? That we should only fight back once we can do it in secret? That capitalism is our only defense against far-right nationalists? I don’t know, and that’s why this film just feels so mediocre to me.
“The Resistance Banker” (2018) is an excessively mediocre Nazi Occupation film that has a tone-deaf message regarding today’s far-right nationalists seizing power in multiple countries. While it does tell an interesting story of two bankers who helped fund the resistance, it doesn’t tell the story of the actual resisters risking their lives to fight the occupation, and leaving us to believe the real heroes are the bankers, not the folks organizing in the trenches to take back the country. Fans of World War II films may enjoy some aspects of this film, but those looking for inspiration for today’s battles against far-right nationalism will find very little worthwhile, unless you think today’s megabanks will somehow be our saviors... after the reins of power have already been transferred, of course.
Rotten Tomatoes: NR
One Movie Punch: 6.6/10
“The Resistance Banker” (2018) is rated TV-MA and is currently streaming on Netflix.