Follow The Money (Film Review: “The Resistance Banker”)

theresistancebankerPOSTER

A suspenseful, true-story nail-biter about the shadow bank that financed the Dutch Resistance operation and beyond, during WWII.  The Resistance Banker is a history lesson for all generations.

 

SnapShot Plot

In early 1940’s Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, it was becoming increasingly impossible to ignore the horror unfolding against Jews and those who would harbor or help them. People knew about the underground Resistance movement but the general adviso prescribed keeping your head down and minding your own business. For Wally van Hall, a young banker who loved his family and the sea and had everything to live for, that all changed the day he paid a visit to a Jewish client and was shocked to his core by what he witnessed. Soon after he was approached by a Resistance leader with an ingenious plan to – with Wally’s connections and expertise – literally fund the Dutch Resistance. The concept made sense on a practical level, given the actual cost incurred for everything from gun smuggling and forgery to supporting entire labor forces during phony strikes that could – in effect – cripple the German Army. The proposal made sense on a moral level, too, as Wally simply couldn’t avert his eyes any longer to the wholesale subordination of The Netherlands and his fellow Dutchmen to the atrocities of the Third Reich.

With the reluctant participation of his older brother, Gijs, the two bankers launch a growing operation – some of it in concert with their counterparts in London –  to form an intricate network of phony loans and forged treasury bonds, among other fiscal schemes, raising (in less than 5 years) what in today’s market would amount to over a half billion Euros. To this day, the operation hatched by Wally van Hall is cited as the largest bank fraud in Dutch history.

 

“In this country, only the sun rises for free.”

Parting Shot

Directed by Joram Lürsen and starring an impressive cast of Dutch actors, including: Barry Atsma, Jacob Derwig, Pierre Bokma and Fockeline Ouwerkerk, The Resistance Banker starts off a bit like a made-for-TV movie but quickly hits its stride and becomes utterly engrossing. My only criticism refers to Wally’s accelerated character arc; he starts off somewhat ambivalent about the Nazis and too quickly has an epiphany, grasping his moral mission with such a speedy fervor that it felt a bit ‘manufactured’. But soon you forget all that as he completely immerses himself in the cause, of course bringing to mind the similar path of Oskar Schindler and his activities in Poland.

Needless to say, the work of Wally van Hall, his brother and the countless unsung heroes in the Dutch Resistance came at great personal risk and sacrifice. And the film fittingly depicts the various captures, arrests and tortures of Dutch compatriots as the harrowing ordeals they must have been. Although the narrative is limited to the banking scheme itself – rather than on the experience of the Jews in The Netherlands –  an early scene (that will stay with me) takes place on a commuter train on which Wally is a passenger. The train abruptly comes to a stop and it takes a moment for the bewildered passengers to comprehend why. It’s to allow another train to pass, this one carrying Jews to a concentration camp. It’s only a moment but the look on the faces of the Dutch people gazing out their windows at the desperate scene gliding past is harrowing. . . and palpable.

In the course of human history, with countless stories of loss, sacrifice and injustice, it’s rare when the element of Irony plays such an important role as it did in this story. As Wally van Hall kept insisting from the start, the administration of the entire operation had to be meticulous. What he was saying was that – like the Germans themselves who were known for their anal attention to documentation – his underground bank had to adhere to that standard (and more) of notations in order for everything to come out clean in the end. In essence, they beat the Germans at their own game, or, as Wally put it, played it ‘smarter’.

The Dutch people finally, in 2010, erected a strange but fitting monument to Wally (shown below), a fallen tree made of bronze. It memorializes Walraven van Hall as a “fallen giant”. It is situated next to the Dutch Central Bank.

 

vanHallMemorial

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Resistance Banker is presently streaming on Netflix.

Norma’s Streaming Picks is proud to announce squatters’ rights on a fantastic site for Baby Boomers, Midcentury/Modern as well as right here at home. I invite you to go there for more great content!

YouTube Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXUkyudJoVg

3 Comments

  • Norma says:

    Thank you for your valid take on the dubbing, Dirk. I rely on people like you to provide those invaluable insights on the foreign language films we all love. I hope you stay on board for other fine films I will be recommending!

  • Dirk van de Bunt says:

    It’s an important story and well shot. Unfortunately the Netflix version dubbed in English feels very stilted and saps the movie of the underlying drama.

    • Nechuma says:

      You can change the settings on Netflix. I changed it so the audio was in Dutch and it had English subtitles. It’s much better this way!!

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