is the second most expensive Dutch film of all time, ranking just below Paul
Verhoeven’s Black Book. It is hard to
fathom how the budget for a WWII Dutch occupation drama could exceed a full
scale Seventeenth Century naval epic. Maybe it was Verhoeven’s lattes. Regardless,
the exploits of Michiel de Ruyter never look small or cheap on-screen in Roel
Reiné’s The Admiral (trailer here), which opens this Friday in select cities.
the Seventeenth Century, naval power was everything. Britain and Spain had it—and
so did the Dutch, sort of. Despite the successes of the soon-to-be-late
national hero, Admiral Maarten Tromp, the battered Dutch fleet is in need of an
overhaul. Cantankerous Michiel de Ruyter is just the man to do it. He has the
Orangist (Royalist) background that the rank-and-file seem to trust, but he has
never been overtly political. After reluctantly accepting the position, de
Ruyter rather surprises himself by throwing his lot in with the republicans and
befriending their leader, Johan de Witt.
was indeed a republic, predating the independent United States. In fact, it was
quite a prosperous one, which made it a target multiple times over for the
absolute monarchs of Spain and Britain. Of course, as Ben Franklin pointed out,
having a republic is one thing. Keeping it is another. The Dutch would lose
theirs for some time, but through no fault of de Ruyter. The titular admiral
would even continue to serve under William III, who would do quite well for
himself as part of the William and Mary tandem.
and screenwriter Lars Boom and Alex van Galen cogently condense quite a bit of
Dutch political history into The Admiral,
but the whole point of the film is the naval action. Reiné does not disappoint,
bringing plenty of spectacle and bombast, but also clearly rendering the
tactical maneuvering. Frankly, it is easier to follow what de Ruyter is
planning than trying to make heads or tails of America’s Cup television
coverage. Reiné can also stage quite an effective mob riot, which is nearly as
cinematic, but less edifying.
Lammers does not exactly cut a dashing figure but he is apparently a good
likeness of the de Ruyter statues you can find in nearly every Dutch public
park. He plays the admiral accordingly, with plenty of prickliness and salty
gravitas. You can understand why men would sail into cannon fire for him.
Similarly, Barry Atsma is charismatically fiery as the cunning but principled
de Witt. The reliably villainous Charles Dance really pulls out all the
sinister stops as the hedonistic, Machiavellian Charles II. However, Egbert-Jan
Weber’s underwhelming William III never grows in stature, even when he starts
to assert his power.
The bottom line for The Admiral is the naval action, which looks great. With its three
specially constructed masted vessels, The
Admiral is a good example of how to augment practical effects with CGI.
Recommended for fans of seafaring action (consider it the Dutch equivalent of
the Korean smash hit, The Admiral: Roaring Currents), Reiné’s The
Admiral opens this Friday (3/11) in Los Angeles, at the Arena Cinema.
Labels: Charles Dance, Dutch cinema, Michiel de Ruyter