BLESSED BY FIRENR
Led by a vicious and corrupt military dictatorship, Argentina occupied the desolate Falkland Islands, whose ownership had long been disputed, under the mistaken assumption that the British colonial powers would never fight back. Wrong, boyo! Britain sent a full naval task force to the South Atlantic and crushed the Argentines in near record time, which eventually led to the collapse of the military regime.
Director Gastón Pauls' film is set 20 years after the conflict and is told from the viewpoint of Esteban, a Falklands veteran who flashes back to the war's horrors when the wife of a former comrade calls to tell him that his buddy has attempted suicide.
Blessed by Fire is, in many ways, a prototypical combat movie. There is plenty of tedium; soldiers talk about loved ones left at home; officers seem uniformly brutal; and there is even a moment of levity when three comrades chase a flock of sheep and capture one that they will slaughter for dinner.
The centerpiece of the film is a well-wrought nighttime combat sequence during which it becomes obvious that the "Argies" (as the British tabloid press used to refer to them) are hopelessly outmanned, outgunned and basically just cannon fodder. Forced to retreat to the largest town around, these dispirited combat vets are shown standing around in the mud and cold, waiting for the last (metaphorical) shoe to drop--total surrender to the British forces. The demoralization shown in their faces is moving, and utterly pathetic.
Unfortunately, even though Blessed by Fire is undoubtedly well-made and sincere in its efforts to shine a light on this farcical episode, it also doesn't add anything to the "war is hell" genre. Psychological insights are wafer-thin, and the present-day sequences seem needlessly tacked onto the much more impressive combat footage. And even though the film really goes for the gut when Esteban decides to revisit the Islands (it's the first Argentine film about the war actually filmed on-site), scenes shot at a minefield and military cemetery simply don't pack much of a wallop. The bottom line seems obvious: You probably need to be Argentinean to really appreciate Blessed by Fire. Americans already have The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now and countless other reminders of a much larger, and much more tragic, conflict.
[Note: subtitles on the DVD review copy were riddled with misspellings and syntactical errors. Hopefully, the print itself is in better shape.]