Time Out Chicago
Ben Kenigsberg

Competition screenings concluded with an endurance test this morning when the press corps finally got a look at Burnt by the Sun 2. Exodus, Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov's ridiculously titled sequel to his Oscar-winning film of 1994. The last comp movie to screen isn't necessarily the worst – The Class in 2008 and Rosetta in 1999 both had late premieres, and then went on to win the Palme d'Or – but a final-weekend bow does ensure that a movie is seen by fewer critics, and that in turn raises suspicions. This one actually came in with terrible buzz – and edited down to a shorter version – after being derided in its home country as a bloated, egomaniacal, politically suspect bore.

Indeed, not for the first time this festival, one sensed that viewers in the Grand Theatre Lumière were wondering how a film so clunky had landed such a prestigious berth. But more-pressing questions need to be asked. Is it really possible to make a true sequel to Burnt by the Sun? Of the four principal characters, one was executed, one died in a labor camp and a third committed suicide. (In a move worthy of the lost season of Dallas, we're given to understand that General Kotov's execution was averted because the charges against him were changed. The suicide, we must take it on faith, was a botch.) What plot there is concerns Kotov and his daughter's efforts to find each other after he goes to war and she learns that he's alive; conveniently, both are haunted by flashbacks to the same scene from the first film.

In between them stands World War II, a backdrop that gives Mikhalkov license to indulge in the kind of action sequences one wouldn't expect in the sequel to a Chekhovian chamber drama. The new movie more or less gives up on telling a story (perhaps the interludes in which we veer off to follow German soldiers made more sense in the earlier cut) and devotes its primary attention to air raids, explosions and wound-dressing. Pity any viewers who thought they'd be getting a completed film: The reunion, we learn in a final title card, will be deferred until Burnt by the Sun 2's part two. ...