Neither a convincing war film nor a moving romance, Captain Corelli's Mandolin is so middle-of-the-road that it's hard to imagine anyone getting heated up over it. At the film's heart is a vague and unsatisfying love triangle between the beautiful Pelagia (Penélope Cruz), her fisherman fiancé, Mandras (Christian Bale), and Italian army captain Antonio Corelli (Nicolas Cage). It's never really clear why Pelagia should prefer Corelli over Mandras, and the ethics of love between enemies is barely touched upon. Yet, the grand scope of the film begs us to be swept up in its forbidden romance. Despite being burdened with such a sappy script, the actors acquit themselves well; in particular, it's great to see such an accomplished and underused actor like John Hurt given such a fitting role as the wise and humorous Dr. Iannis. The cast is able to make some sequences work; the scene where Corelli and his men lie on the beach and sing opera with half-naked women conjures an absurdist poetry reminiscent of Federico Fellini. Unfortunately, the scene shows a conviction that the rest of the film seems to lack. Then there is the problem of the mandolin itself -- much like the diary in Bridget Jones's Diary, it appears at the beginning and then somewhat at the end. Director John Madden never really develops the instrument into a useful symbol of the dichotomy between personal choice and fate. Like so much else in Captain Corelli's Mandolin, these epic trappings are never realized, but merely serve as a skeleton over which the limp skin of this romance is draped.