(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: This is the epic biopic of the career of Dutch naval hero Michiel Ruyter who fought against the English and the French in the second and third Anglo-Dutch wars, 1665 to 1673. It features several exciting cannon battles between ships. The filmmakers frequently create spectacular visual effects using CGI like it was meant to be used. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

[The film is in Dutch, English, and French with subtitles where they are needed.]

I never much was interested in the French and Indian Wars when they taught it in school. I suppose I could not identify with the people fighting or picture the conflict. Then I saw the film THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS and I was hooked. It always seemed to me that history should be taught at least in part on the movie screen. Films should be used to make historical times come alive for students. The Dutch film ADMIRAL has been made in two versions. One is for general release and one has less sex and violence for showing in schools. And I think it will work wonders to involve students in history. It is, after all, an exciting ride, even if it does not always get its history correct. As a Hornblower fan I would rather see two ships from the Age of Sail battling in than see two superheroes fighting each other. Particularly since along the way I am learning a little about real history. Not that the history is necessarily 100% accurate, but one learns the issues and gets an idea of the times.

ADMIRAL (a.k.a. MICHIEL DE RUYTER) is the story of Dutch Admiral Michiel de Ruyter's career over what appears to be several months, but historically was several years. The film begins and within minutes we are on the shore at Scheveningen watching a battle on the North Sea. De Ruyter (played by Frank Lammers) proves himself to be an excellent commander and when Dutch Lieutenant-Admiral Tromp (Rutger Hauer) is killed, de Ruyter is chosen to replace him. We then are presented the story of de Ruyter's naval victories. There is a re-creation of the Four Days' Battle that is explosive even if it does not give a good summary of the battle. In the real world the battle ended with the British retreating to the safety of the Thames and de Ruyter blockading the Thames for fifty-one days before being forced to retreat. In the ADMIRAL dramatization, de Ruyter simply returns home after the battle.

The reason the film gives for the wars was that the Dutch had a republic and the royalty of England did not want that egalitarian idea to spread. Inside the Netherlands the Orangists and the Republicans join forces temporarily to defend the Netherlands from the English, but the monarchist Orangists and the Republicans were still tearing their own country apart in a political conflict verging on civil war. Though battle scenes are featured, the film is as much about political strife in the Netherlands at the time. De Ruyter is dragged into the internal conflict of the Orangists who wanted a king and the Republicans who had a more democratic vision.

In the version I saw there is nudity and some torture is depicted. I assume I saw the general release version. The dialog talks down a little to the viewers who are intended in large part to be school students, but it pays the viewer back in thrilling visual images. The film uses rather obvious CGI, but the complexity and intensity of battle could be done no other way without a much bigger budget.

The cast of the film is almost entirely Dutch and consists mostly of what were for me unfamiliar faces. Two exceptions are Rutger Hauer as Tromp, a Dutch Naval hero, but he is on the screen for only a short time. The other is Charles Dance, who does sinister oh-so-well, as fans of GAME OF THRONES can attest. Dance plays reprobate English king Charles II, though he is much older than the historical Charles would have been.

People seem to be awed just by the trailer for ADMIRAL (I know I was) and the film does live up to the trailer. The trailer can be seen at the address below. Though the trailer gives the impression that this is predominately an English language production, it is mostly in Dutch. ADMIRAL will be on VOD and iTunes on February 23 and in theaters March 11. I rate it a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2016 Mark R. Leeper