On the Barricade

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 6, 2015

This will soon come to be the same kind of cinematic politics indulged in by D.W. Griffith, and by multitudes of his successors. The subject here is topical, and ideological points are made, unfairly, mostly, through sentimental contrivance and overstatement.

The thing is that anyone’s heart can be touched, and should be, by vulnerability and jeopardy. But this kind of thing is not at all fair, or, if the filmmaker’s heart is really pure and guileless, not to be taken quite seriously. Cute puppies and mourning mothers are not the stuff of political policy, nor should they be. (“Are there no poorhouses?” is a whole different matter.) Care for the widows and the fatherless, but don’t take your cues from the person with the placard.

On the other hand, On the Barricade is really well staged, really well calculated. The barricade material is especially effective—just the right camera position, from which we see lots of really dynamic, well-blocked action. The emotion isn’t fair in a policy sense, but it’s sincere as emotion goes. Happy political endings in narratives can be too much Uncle Tom’s Cabin—just be patient, don’t activate, and your deliverance will come—but the political will that so frequently informs happy political endings must still be acknowledged and respected.