Hana (Juliette Binoche), a French Canadian nurse, finds herself escorting a severely burned man who had been found in the desert in 1944 suffering from amnesia. Due to the mine laden roads in Italy the journey becomes too dangerous despite having the bomb disposal team travelling with them which is why Hana agrees to stay at an old church with the man as he is dying, a bit more every day. It is whilst at the empty church that she meets fellow Canadian David Caravaggio (Willem Dafoe) who believes he has met her patient before and that his name is Count Laszlo de Alm?sy (Ralph Fiennes).
Have you ever watched a movie which has pretty much everything from beautiful cinematography to an evolving storyline as well as good performances yet for some reason it just doesn't grab you in the way it grabs others? This is the case when it comes to "The English Patient" because if I sat down with a tick sheet of what makes a good movie this would be scoring multiple ticks next to each item with the cinematography being simply magnificent. Yet truth be told when I had finished watching "The English Patient" it didn't leave me feeling emotionally exhausted as if I had been part of the drama which what for me usually means a movie was something special.
Now as to that drama; well there is plenty of it going on as "The English Patient" has multiple characters and multiple story threads. On one hand we have the story of Hana who feels she is jinxed as those she becomes close to end up dying which makes her fearful when she falls for Kip whose job it is to disarm bombs and land mines. We also have Caravaggio who shows up saying he is a thief but as we discover knew the severely burned man before the accident which disfigured him. And of course we have the burned man, Count Laszlo de Alm?sy who as we learn was in love with another man's wife and working as a cartographer when WWII broke out giving us an almost epic love story. These stories interweave taking us back and forth between periods whilst drawing in extra elements to do with the war. Yet for me whilst these stories are beautiful I never felt part of them and never felt that emotional connection once the movie was over.
But as I said "The English Patient" ticks box after box and as such we have the wonderful cinematography which is old school classy but more importantly doesn't become painfully drawn out by making these beautiful shots too artsy. Basically the cinematography helps to tell the story, to set the scene but never becomes the focus of a scene even when it does something creative with the shadows thrown by the desert sand.
And then there is the acting and I am going to say that every single part in "The English Patient" was perfectly cast be it Ralph Fiennes as Count Laszlo who you can sense is fighting his feelings when he meets the married Katharine to Kevin Whately as Sgt. Hardy who brings just the right amount of light hearted fun to his part to make him the happy sort of soldier who is everyone's friend. You could possibly write a small book on the acting and the casting in "The English Patient" as it is faultless through out.
What this all boils down to is that "The English Patient" is a great movie, an absolute treat for the eyes whilst being undeniably well acted. But for me it didn't achieve what truly great movies manage which make me feel like I have been part of the drama and as such I didn't feel that emotional exhaustion when the movie was over.