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Shining Through

Directed by David Seltzer. Starring Michael Douglas, Melanie Griffith, John Gielgud, Liam Neeson, Joely Richardson.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 31, 1992

Set in the early years of World War II, Shining Through is a Nineties-style stab at making one of those great old Hollywood romantic adventures, with mixed results. The film is, in fact, filled with references to genre pictures of the time (Griffith's character is a film buff), but director Seltzer never really seems to pull it all together. Griffith plays a young woman, half-Jewish by birth, who finds herself falling in love with her new employer (Douglas), an O.S.S. man with a habit of dropping out of sight for weeks at a time. As Douglas' secretary, Griffith soon finds herself privy to all manner of classified wartime information, and when she learns that the Germans are apparently on the verge of discovering how to mass-produce the V-2 rocket, she convinces Douglas to smuggle her into the Third Reich in an attempt to gain more information on the Nazis' budding infatuation with self-propelled bombs. Once inside the Reich, Griffith insinuates herself into the company of widowed S.S. Colonel (Neeson), and, throwing caution to the wind, also begins a search for some Jewish relatives of hers that have gone into hiding in Hitler's Berlin. Improbable as that may seem, Griffith is talented enough to pull it off most of the way through the film; it's only toward the tail end of the picture that the story's inherent silliness comes to the fore. Douglas is all heroic wartime stoicism -- more and more he's turning into his father with every role he plays (which is not that bad a thing, really). As an O.S.S. deep-cover operative in Berlin, Gielgud is more or less given nothing to do here, and Neeson's S.S. man has similar problems (though he does manage to be menacing occasionally). Seltzer apparently set out to make a post-holiday period release, one that might hopefully rake in the big bucks from the housewife and husband set, but in the end the whole thing comes up flatter than a six-week-old keg of Shiner. Shining Through lacks the spark that would propel it into the stand-up-and-cheer type of war/romance film it so obviously was meant to be. It just sits there on the screen, looking beautiful, but going nowhere fast.
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