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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Majestic (2001)



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The Majestic tells the story of a man who suffers from amnesia and is mistaken for a supposed casualty of World War II. His "return" inspires and enlivens the men and women of a small town -- which has lost 62 men to the war and been in a state of depression ever since.

The movie mirrors its subject. It's like Frank Capra came back from the dead and made a movie to inspire the industry, which, since the time of Capra and Sturges and their peers, has fallen into a jaded state of cynicism. Movies that are so unabashedly patriotic, idealistic, and sentimental are scoffed at today. We need to shield ourselves from fervent emotions with irony. But The Majestic is not afraid to stand up in the midst of this and remind us that not all sentiment is saccharine and not all idealism is naive. The film earns every iota of emotion it attempts to draw, which is remarkable in a film that aims so high. How does it do it? It never lapses into a cliche for an engineered emotional response: it takes time to build real characters, endows them with intelligence, and lets the story come naturally from their thoughts and feelings. The result is genuine and beautiful.