A fictionalized slice of Endel Nelis’ life finds a gruff but easily thawed Kirill Käro starring as the Estonian fencer — Épée dueling, not cyclone — who has spent much of 1952 masquerading as a gym teacher in order to escape Russia’s secret police. With most of the sporting equipment on loan to the military, he uses sticks as swords to school his class in the art of foil work. An imaginatively choreographed opening passage introduces the kids to fencing, but after that, director Klaus Härö (Mother of Mine, Letters to Father Jacob) runs whatever potential there was through a deflavorizer. Everything one expects to happen does so in the most bland, mundanely efficient ways possible. “Fencing is not an occupation for the working man,” mutters the stock unsympathetic school principal. That’s about as heated as he gets. The climactic competition is as inevitable as it is blah. Not awful, just uninspired.
Length: 1 hour, 39 minutes