Tuesday, August 01, 2023


They were not exactly great hosts, but Germany and Italy better adhered to the Geneva Convention than their fellow Japanese Axis. Perhaps reciprocity was a reason—the fear that mistreatment of Allied POW’s would lead to mistreatment of their own. Such reciprocity will be a very real concern for one German patrol in director-screenwriter Michael Akkerman’s Reveille, which releases this Friday on-demand.

In the first act, Sgt. Jens Artur’s platoon capture a rag-tag group of American GI’s. Their treatment of the new POW’s is somewhat questionable, but probably not worth our outrage. Soon thereafter, Staff Sgt. Walter Brander, a WWI veteran called back into service, takes a small group out for some recon. This time, the Yanks have the drop on them.

Brander wanted to find the Americans and that is exactly what happens. It is a one-sided battle, with only Artur, Brander, and new rookie (who is as green as Kermit) are gravely wounded, but the rest are KIA. As he should according to the military code of conduct, “Sarge” prevents his redneck private from finishing them off. Instead, they take them prisoner. He duly sends for medics, but because they are pinned down by Germany artillery, the men instead must watch their German POWs slowly and painfully expire.

The inherent irony of the German POWs’ situation is ripe for drama. Unfortunately, Akkerman’s verbose screenplay literally talks around it. A talky film can be engrossing, sort of in the
Playhouse 90 kind of tradition, but the dialogue in Reveille often feels tangential and unfocused.

Frankly, Akkerman really should have whittled the film down into a more concentrated form. However, it is worth noting the best monologue comes late in the third act from GI Martin “Leo” Kelly. It is an honest and emotional resonant piece of writing, delivered with memorable feeling by Joe Bongiovanni, who happens to be a Green Beret veteran.

The acting is consistently high-caliber, including Jared Becker as Sarge, Bart Voitila as Bolek (the Polish POW pressed into German service), and Bernd Wittneben (a veteran of the German Special Forces) as Brander. Aspects of
Reveille are admirable, but it is a little too ruminative in its approach and its is a little too determined to draw equivalencies between the two respective armies. Not quite recommended, Reveille releases Friday (8/4) on-demand.