War flicks and romance movies are two of the most popular genres in the cinematic realm. The two genres have been combined more than once both in theaters and on the small screen. In some of those cases, the result has been a success (Casablanca, The Sun Also Rises, From Here To Eternity). In other cases, the result isn’t so positive (Pearl Harbor, Flyboys). Late last month IFC Films and mpi media group released a new wartime romantic drama titled Ali & Nino that despite beautiful shooting locations and cinematography, fits into the latter of the two noted categories. That is because this nearly two-hour movie suffers from a story line that is not exactly original. This will be discussed shortly. The story’s pacing is even more problematic as it leads the movie, which comes in at approximately an hour and forty-one minutes, feel far longer. Luckily though, the previously noted cinematography and the movie’s shooting locations combine to save this presentation and make the movie worth at least one watch.
Ali & Nino is hardly the first time that any studio major or independent has ever released a romantic drama that is set against a wartime era. As already noted, this latest addition to that field is worth at least one watch, but sadly not much more. That is due in part to its story line. The movie’s story line is anything but original. It is a Romeo & Juliet style story that sees a man and woman from two totally different backgrounds (Ali is Muslim and Nino is Christian) falling in love and getting married all while facing the perils of World War I and the Bolsheviks. Not to give away too much here, but it doesn’t have a happy ending despite thousands of miles separating the young star-crossed lovers more than once throughout the story. This creates, in itself, its own share of problems. Audiences know that the couple will be reunited each time it is separated. What’s more, when Ali tells Nino in the story’s final act that he is staying behind the help fight the Bolsheviks, one doesn’t need to be a genius to know the predicted outcome. Considering all of this, the movie’s story does somehow manage to keep audiences engaged, albeit tenuously because of its pacing, which will be discussed later. Before touching on that problem, it is only fair to also discuss the movie’s saving grace—its collective cinematography and its shooting locations.
The shooting locations used in filming Ali & Nino and its cinematography are by themselves and collectively its most important elements. If not for these inter-related elements this otherwise formulaic wartime romance would be just another forgettable run-of-the-mill wartime romance. Audiences will be awed at the wide, sweeping shots of Azerbaijan’s Caucasus Mountains and the streets of Turkey that were used to set the movie’s scenes. The aerial shots of the mountains as Ali is being led to safety are stunning thanks to the contrast of the white caps of the mountains to the gravel road used to take him to his safe haven. The city settings, which were likely filmed in Turkey, are used for just as many scenes and are just as impressive as the mountain scenes. That includes the peaceful scenes and the battle scenes. The angles that are used within each scene will keep audiences rapt with awe. If not for the power of that work behind the cameras, the story’s pacing within each scene would be completely unbearable.
Ali & Nino’s pacing is bearable. However, is should be noted that it is bearable only because of the power of the movie’s cinematography and related shooting locations. The movie’s run time is listed at an hour and forty-one minutes. However, its pacing makes it feel like it runs well over the two hour mark. The movie’s pacing is so problematic that audiences will find themselves begin to feel restless no less than an hour into the movie. It seems the pacing is so problematic because the story spends so much time keeping its main characters separated and having them worry about how to re-unite. When they do, the story sees them spending more time in bed together than anything else. In other words, there really is no real substance to this story. That lack of substance combines with the story’s lack of originality to make it a work that is worth watching only for the work put in behind the cameras than in front of them. Other than those related elements, Ali & Nino gives audiences little other reason to watch this movie.
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