Film adaptations of video games have something of a bad press, and given the litany of disasters that have graced both small and big screen it's surely warranted. Company Of Heroes, based on the popular Sega real-time strategy game, will do little to dispel this idiom.
What makes this all the more disappointing is the potential was certainly there to make a great World War II action film. It starts off so well, with lead protagonist, Nate, played with an innocent charm by Chad Michael Collins, showing off his skills with a sniper rifle when his troop of US soldiers comes under fire in snowy Europe. The set up for the main plot – a small band of disparate marines is sent on a seemingly pointless mission, only for it to turn into a vital operation that, if failed, could spell the end to the Allies resistance to the Nazi's warmongering – is excitingly epic, and the style and execution of the direction is stirring and dramatic.
While not boasting the budget of an Enemy At The Gates or Band Of Brothers, for a direct to DVD/Blu-ray film it's clear that money has certainly been spent on getting the look right for Company Of Heroes. And, OK, the characters are a little caricatured, particularly Vinnie Jones' Brit POW and Tom Sizemore's disillusioned squaddie, but you kind of feel that if you're going to call a film Company Of Heroes, you need some larger than life types in there.
All good so far…
Then, for some inexplicable reason, about halfway through, the whole tone of the film changes. Out goes the moody blue and grey colour pallette, which had added a level of grime and grit to the drama, and in comes a bright, rich style that would feel more at home in a gaudy comic book movie and completely undermines any vestiges of verisimilitude. The tone of the story changes too, swapping tense drama for dumb explosive action – we're not talking storming the beaches of Normandy stunning here, we're talking more Commando-style crash, bang, wallop, in-your-face, over-the-top ridiculousness. We're not averse to a good action film, but not when promised something a little meatier in style and execution, and certainly not when it delivers such by-the-numbers action.
As a symphony of war, Company of Heroes starts out like Mozart but ends like Justin Bieber. Worth a look if you like war movies, but perhaps only catch the first half.
EXTRAS ★★½ Both the DVD and Blu-ray come with a selection of extras in the form of two Making Of… featurettes, namely In The Trenches: Filming Company Of Heroes, and Fabricating World War II, both including interviews with cast and crew. There's also a deleted scene.