In Love and War (1997)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - War Romance, Biopic [feature]  |   Release Date - Dec 19, 1996 (USA)  |   Run Time - 115 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom, United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Derek Armstrong

In spite of Richard Attenborough's sterling resumé as a director, In Love and War fails to stake a legitimate claim to the life of an over-sized 20th century figure like Ernest Hemingway. There's something wan and bloodless about it, even with one bloody soldier after another carted into makeshift hospitals. The film's lack of impact is probably traceable to the actor chosen to play Hemingway -- Chris O'Donnell, whose blandness has always been one of his most identifiable traits. Since the character is still basically a child at age 18, it's understandable that he's not yet the dynamic, excess-loving force he would become. He doesn't need to say something like, "I feel like an old man...stranded at sea!" to be recognizable as Hemingway, but he needs to be a lot more than just a regular Chris O'Donnell character. (And the letter he dictates to a fallen soldier's mother is pretty pedestrian, for one of the future great writers of his generation.) These problems compound when the team of screenwriters fail to do justice to the courtship between Hemingway and Agnes Von Kurowsky (Sandra Bullock), such that their relationship hits a crescendo with jarring suddenness. Especially considering how much of an ass he can be, there needs to be more counterbalancing charm before Bullock starts wresting Ernest Hemingway more than she did in Wrestling Ernest Hemingway. As for Attenborough's contribution, there's nothing sweeping and large-scale to the World War I footage, meaning the Gandhi director doesn't bring any of his talent for scope to the film. The ease he displayed with intimacy in Shadowlands is nowhere to be seen here, either.