Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: The biopics American Sniper and Unbroken have us thinking back on other true stories about soldiers.
Before he became Hollywood’s definitive over-the-top, sex-and-violence subversive, Paul Verhoeven was the golden boy of Dutch cinema. His first major project, the medieval-set TV series Floris, had made a star out of 25-year-old Rutger Hauer; his second feature, Turkish Delight, which marked Hauer’s big-screen debut, became the highest-grossing film in the history of the Netherlands. Then came Soldier Of Orange, the most expensive Dutch film made up until that time (the previous record-holder was Verhoeven’s own Katie Tippel) and the movie that first brought wide international acclaim and attention to its director and star.
Adapted by Gerard Soeteman, the screenwriter of all of Verhoeven’s Dutch projects, from the best-selling memoirs of the spy and RAF pilot Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema, Soldier Of Orange follows upper-class everyman Erik Lanshof (Rutger Hauer) and his close-knit group of college buddies over the course of World War II, as they escape the Netherlands, return, betray one another, and, in some cases, end up fighting on opposite sides. Rogier Van Otterloo’s martial score promises patriotic derring-do and rousing adventure, which Soldier Of Orange has plenty of, all superbly staged and tensely paced. Being a Verhoeven film, though, it’s also distinguished by its ambivalent attitude toward the war and the heroic iconography it created.
Its greatest assets, however, are Hauer’s effortlessly charismatic performance and a scampering, devil-may-care energy that manifests itself in Jost Vacano’s aggressive, largely handheld camerawork. (Soldier Of Orange was Verhoeven’s first film without cinematographer Jan De Bont, who would go on to become a blockbuster director in his own right.) It’s about as freewheeling as a World War II movie can get while maintaining a sense of perspective about the reality of the war—a product of Verhoeven’s anarchist vision, through and through.
Availability: Soldier Of Orange is available on Blu-ray and DVD, which can be obtained from Amazon and your local video store/library.