Will (Wil) (2024), a Flemish-language Netflix Original movie written by Tim Mielants, Carl Joos, and Jeroen Olyslaegers, and directed by Mielants, is just another World War II (WWII) movie. As the Nazis occupy Antwerp, new policeman Wilfried Wils (Stef Aerts) becomes entangled in the murder of a superior, anti-Nazi resistance and a Jew-hating benefactor. With a few moments of excellent cinematography and a couple of good performances, the movie is otherwise lackluster. Amidst an endless sea of WWII and Holocaust movies, Will doesn’t have anything new to say—or a way to say it—that hasn’t been seen time and time again before.
This doesn’t mean the movie is bad by any means. Will (2024) does just fine for what it is: A very straightforward narrative of a good person attempting to survive in an impossible circumstance while helping as many innocent people as he can. The stakes are high. The Nazi’s violence is brutal. The villains are clear. But again and again, decent people cannot fulfill their obligation to save their neighbors. The stereotypical screaming, unhinged Nazis don’t help either.
And every time, it is so, so violent. Will (2024) is overflowing with the blood of innocent people. It’s full of graphic and close-up depictions of people being shot, beaten, tortured, and killing themselves. Up to a certain point, you can understand the value of the graphic violence. These were unimaginably inhumane times, and the violence we have to stomach as an audience pales compared to what people actually experienced. But by the end of the film, which itself is an extended, bloody, and horrifying display of Nazi brutality, the violence is more sickening than impactful.
The camera and lighting aid the depth of the discomfort, for better and worse. There is a lot of shaky camera work to tighten the fear and creative inversions and blurs during moments of jubilation and drunken rage. But the movie is bathed in the classic dark blue hue of Holocaust movies. Everything is wretchedly dark, which is fair enough given the subject matter. It doesn’t feel cumbersome or too dark to see during earlier parts of the movie. But in the final, most important sequence, the overall aesthetic is too hard to focus on. The color grading and suddenly bright lights (plus an obnoxious lens flair) severely diminish the scene’s impact.
Its point is well-taken. Within the first few minutes, Will (2024) very clearly explains itself as a movie about the costs and benefits of staying silent. This is probably the most overplayed Holocaust movie trope imaginable. The main difference here is how the movie chooses to show the horrible consequences in the end. But along the way, Will (2024) is almost too generous to its characters for how much they get away with staying silent. The good guys save people, but people also die. It’s often portrayed as valiant to stay silent because letting Nazis walk over Wil at least means he can keep doing his best to help Jews and others stay alive too.
Until he can’t anymore. And when the movie chooses to flip dramatically on your expectations, it goes hard. It works. You end the film feeling wretched and sickened by everything that happened. The movie doesn’t lionize people who were clearly not heroes. But yet, Will’s (2024) final message seems to forgive all of the wrongdoings of the average people as well. It doesn’t say what people did by “just following orders” was right. But it implies that we should have sympathy because they had no choice.
I simply don’t have the energy to decide whether that’s an appropriate closing message for a movie. Either way, it’s wishy-washy. Countless other movies have taken a stronger stance on this very subject one way or another. Whether you agree with their premises or not, at least they require less thought. Will isn’t a bad movie, but I don’t want to sit and ponder the morality of the average Antwerp cop after the absolutely horrendous things I watched in this movie for nearly two hours. It’s exhausting enough to watch as it is.
Will (Wil) (2024) is just another WWII movie. It’s not a bad movie. But it’s not doing anything to push the medium, and the areas where it attempts to are more exhausting than impactful.
Will (Wil) (2024) is streaming exclusively on Netflix.
Will (2024) is just another WWII movie. It’s not a bad movie. But it’s not doing anything to push the medium, and the areas where it attempts to are more exhausting than impactful.