Ari Taub’s The Final Sacrifice is reasonably impressive from a technical standpoint. This low-budget war film utilizes camera tricks, filters, solid costuming and good scene-setting to feel like a story set in 1945 Italy. World War II fiction tends to be judged on how authentic it feels, and Taub does an excellent job of making sure his story doesn’t feel like a bunch of re-enactors hanging out in someone’s backyard. That’s not shallow praise: Trust me, those films exist and they’re intolerable. I wouldn’t say anything so harsh about Sacrifice, whose main flaw is that the scope of its story isn’t ultimately supported by its means.
The 90-minute film follows three groups of soldiers during the waning days of the war. The German soldiers, led by Gunther (Thomas Pohn), are stuck in an Italy that is exiting the war. Local people are turning against them, and finding folks loyal to Mussolini has become more and more difficult. He receives backup in the form of Lt. Giannini (Fabio Sartor), whose men have mixed feelings about being put back into battle and wavering loyalties to their falling government. There’s a lot of tension between Germany and their Italian counterparts. Giannini and Gunther are the main focus, while a contingent of American supply-men makes up the third main focus. They’re all headed on a crash course for one another, driven by orders they cannot ignore.
There’s plenty to like about Sacrifice, which is another edit of Taub’s 2004 film, The Fallen. He has re-edited and re-released it multiple times. Best I can tell, this version includes more American material. To his credit, it’s hard to make out if anything specific was filmed years apart on a visual level, although this might explain the film’s relatively stuffed pacing. The middle act has so many characters and ideas that it’s easy to lose track. Taub relies heavily on close-ups, which helps with the historical setting but also makes even conversations feel poorly focused. It becomes a pretty hard sit.
For what it’s worth, the three intersecting factions do collide, and the payoff is pretty worthwhile. There’s a lot of sadness, death and “heroic” last stands for everyone involved. The film aims to humanize the men fighting even if their beliefs and countries led them into dark territory. It’s the sort of World War II film that you’ve seen a million times but created earnestly and with a solid eye for costuming and setting. I wouldn’t go out of my way for it again, but I don’t regret having done so.