East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Game of Aces, a review

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1248e1fe4ba33ae9537c3e5dccf30937Game of Aces is a 2016 historical action/adventure movie that got a limited release in theaters and was later available on demand in streaming – today you can catch it on Amazon video or Hulu.
Shot in the Death Valley desert doubling for the Egyptian desert by Damien Lay, an Australian director with a past as a documentary-maker, and a small international cast, the movie allegedly cost 500.000 dollars.
And while budgetary limits are evident, the end result is quite interesting, and decidedly worth a look if you like the things we like here on Karavansara.

This is a fun movie, that plays nicely its limited resources and is not as weak as some reviewers made it look.

The plot.
Egypt, 1918: a nurse (Victoria Summer) and a grounded US fighter ace (Chris Klein) are sent 140 miles into the desert to rescue a downed German pilot (Werner Daehn) that’s been working for the British intelligence and carries vital information.
But it gets more complicated than that.


Most of the movie is carried by the three leads, that face off each other in the desert as an underlying game of uncertain loyalties comes to the surface.
It is because of this morally ambiguous subtext that Game of Aces looks like an adventure yarn but plays like a noir intrigue.
There is also a hint of Sergio Leone in the mix, and the music sometimes recalls the old Spaghetti Westerns – and that’s not a bad thing at all.

The cast is excellent.


Chris Klein is very good in the part of the American fly-boy in love with planes (and whiskey) and with a loss to avenge, and German character actor Werner Daehn does a great job first as the man lost in the middle of nowhere, and then as someone that has to face his divided loyalties.


Victoria Summer (that was Julie Andrews in the Disney movie Saving Mr Banks) plays with obvious fun the role of the unlikely femme fatale. Also, she is so beautiful it hurts – so beautiful, in fact, that we are ready to dismiss the fact that she goes into the Sahara desert with perfect make-up and wearing a pair of skin-tight trousers that woulds have caused a riot and possibly arrest in 1918.


It doesn’t matter – she is absolutely great.

As mentioned above, the low budget shows – a lot of the plot has to be carried by expository dialog, and some transitions are a little abrupt, especially in the finale.
Also, the digital photography is probably too stark for the style of the film, that would require the softer tones of old Hollywood cliffhangers.
But this is nitpicking.


Extra points go to the biplane/triplane action and more generally to the breath-taking panoramic shots of the desert. Yes, OK, it’s not Egypt – but a little digital magic helps suspend disbelief. And then when the plot takes us among the dunes, it’s simply beautiful.

So, all in all a very good movie, with a thin promise for a sequel, and a fun way to spend 97 minutes.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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