2010 Heartland Film FestivalRating: 4 of 5 yaps

Fort McCoy

Click here for showtimes for “Fort McCoy”

“Fort McCoy” isn’t your typical war movie.

Yes, it takes place during World War II, but there’s almost no fighting, virtually zero combat, centers on an American family, and takes place in Wisconsin.

And believe it or not, it’s pretty good.

“McCoy” is the true story of the Stirn family, who moved to Wisconsin so that the family’s patriarch Frank (Eric Stoltz) can do his part in the war effort. An irregular heartbeat keeps him from enlisting, so he does what he can: he cuts hair.

The Stirns move into a house next to a POW camp, which means only a rickety fence separates captured Nazis from Frank’s young children. The prisoners frequently escape and are found wandering the forest behind their home.

This troubles Frank’s wife Ruby (Kate Connor, who wrote the screenplay) to no end, but life as it is goes on.

A subplot in the film finds Ruby’s sister (Lyndsy Fonseca of “Kick Ass”) courting a soldier who is trying to get his travel vouchers straightened out.

“McCoy” is a slow burn. Frank’s issues are the most pronounced (he feels inadequate because he can’t fight, some of the soldiers look down on him because he has a German last name, and he worries that his wife will be attracted to the rugged boys in uniform that he services), but the rest of the family has them as well.

Things ramp up when a German soldier escapes the camp and makes his way to the Stirn home when only Ruby is home, leading to the film’s climax, which is perhaps a bit unlikely, but just crazy enough that it would be allowed to happen.

The acting is uniformly strong. Fonseca has the look of a star, Stoltz is the film’s unstable emotional center, and Connor and even the children are solid.

It’s also full of leisurely moments that capture the realities of life on an army base. Tensions are at times high with the prospect of men leaving and never returning (or if they do, they’re likely missing an appendage or are in a box).

“McCoy” is high on drama, light on melodrama.

The story is a personal one for Connor, who based her story on her mother’s family.It’s strengths are in depicting the family as a unit with neuroses beneath, and how precarious a balance it is when a man can’t join up in a time where men are expected to be men, when a virtually undetectable medical issue prevents him from joining.

“Fort McCoy” represents another strong, just-left-of-mainstream unheralded entry that film festivals are known for. This is the kind of film that unless you see it at a festival, you likely won’t be lucky enough to encounter it again, especially if you rent from one of those obnoxious vending machines they pass off as video stores nowadays.

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6 Responses to “Fort McCoy”

  1. Colin says:

    I worked on this film and thought that everyone did a phenomenal job, including the kids. It was great working with Rene and Andy. The film hasn’t made it back to Wisconsin, but when it does I will be there to see it!

  2. Cathy says:

    I agree with Valerie, Rene is amazing. But I have to disagree with the children just giggling other than Gertie. Heinrich did a great job, as a child not knowing German. And I don’t believe he giggled once in the movie.

  3. Tyler Cross says:

    Look forward to seeing this. I recently saw the director Michael Worth’s award winning film "God’s Ears" and was floored by it! I read his leading actress Margot Farley also has a small part in this film so am excited to see it as she was a knock out in "Ears". I can see from the few pictures online it looks like another beautifully shot film as his other film was visually and emotionally very effective. Hope this gets out to Florida!

  4. Joe Shearer says:

    Hi Valerie. Thanks for commenting. Honestly I don’t know why I omitted mentioning Heger. He did a fine job in the film. I can tell you it has nothing to do with guilt over him playing a Nazi soldier. For instance, I’ve gone on record as saying the film "Downfall" was an outstanding film, and Bruno Ganz, who played Hitler himself, was fantastic. I liked this film a lot, and thought the performances were uniformly strong. No offense or slight intended to Heger or any other actors whom I didn’t openly discuss.

  5. Valerie says:

    Is anybody planning on mentioning Rene Heger, the young German actor who plays the SS officer/prisoner in the camp? I saw this at a festival, and he is by a mile the best actor in this film and gives an absolutely astounding performance. I get the distinct feeling that the filmmakers of this project and the critics are afraid to mention him due to a guilt complex that we shouldn’t give an actor playing a Nazi credit for anything. He’s only the film’s lead antagonist and creates all the static, suspense and conflict in the film, and is incredibly brilliant doing it. But hey, forget that…let’s be sure to mention that Fonseca has the "look of a star". Connor is average at best, some of the supporting players are below par, and while Stoltz and Cassell are great, the clear star of this is Heger, who whenever leaves the screen the audience is only anxiously awaiting his return. Please, mentioning the children?????? Over Heger??? RIDICULOUS!!!!! And offensive. Other than Gertie, the children did nothing but play themselves and giggle innocently. Which is cute, but not worth mentioning as noteworthy in a review. And Camryn is always great, but she’s in what…like 2 scenes? Her part is minimal, and she is clearly there as a name (and possibly a favor to Connor) to help create more buzz for the movie. It is clear that Connor is trying to gain focus towards her "star names" and those who play her family members out of tribute. It seems to be working, every review I’ve read or every cast list I’ve seen excludes Heger, the most worthy and memorable actor in this film. And the film itself is good at best, drags at times, and does have some very cheesy and predictable scenes in it.

  6. […] The Film Yap: “McCoy” is a slow burn. Frank’s issues are the most pronounced (he feels inadequate because he can’t fight, some of the soldiers look down on him because he has a German last name, and he worries that his wife will be attracted to the rugged boys in uniform that he services), but the rest of the family has them as well. […]