Set in northern Italy at the end of World War II, The Fallen is a war saga in three languages that follows German, Italian, and American troops as they skirt the fine line between patriotism and brotherly loyalty. Admirably equal-opportunity with its screen time, the film is nonetheless as reliant on racial stereotypes as a Dave Chappelle sketch: The Italians are vivacious and invariably dishonest, the Germans mirthless and orderly, and the Americans—well, they’re just a bunch of regular guys who miss home. This last group comprises the usual tough-talkin’, hard-drinkin’ Sergeant Rock types, as well as the requisite Italian kid from Brooklyn who is able to communicate with the wide-eyed, wily (but rather hospitable) villagers. Thankfully, The Fallen is neither dour nor sentimental, but while the scope is ambitious and the tone refreshingly light on moralism, few of the innumerable characters and subplots elicit much sympathy. Saving most of its war-is-hell gravitas until the bloody, slo-mo climax (which plays like a Peckinpah parody), the movie bounces along briskly enough with a soundtrack of martial drums and occasional eruptions of oompah music, distractingly reminiscent of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 28, 2006