The 49th Parallel | Chicago Reader

The 49th Parallel

Retitled The Invaders and cut by 16 minutes for American release, this 1941 film is a typically perverse and entertaining propaganda piece by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. The plot—a German U-boat lands in Canada, and the crew must make it across the U.S. border before they're captured—forces the audience to identify with the enemy, and the forces of freedom are represented by a series of oddballs and misfits—including Laurence Olivier in an out-there performance as a French-Canadian fur trapper and Leslie Howard as a poetry-reading recluse who lays down his volume of Shelley to take on the intruders single-handedly. Somehow, all this deliberate inversion and eccentricity ends up being more stirring than most straight propaganda films—and certainly a lot more imaginative and suspenseful. 123 min.

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