As critic Kent Jones noted, the progression of digital technology has made it much easier and cheaper to shoot two people in a room talking but no simpler to direct a period piece. That makes the success of Fort McCoy, a low-budget film set in the summer of 1944, all the more impressive. It was obviously a labor of love for co-director Kate Connor, who also wrote the script, co-produced, and acted in a role she based on her grandmother. Barred from serving in the Army because of his age, Frank Stirn (Eric Stoltz) gives haircuts to the soldiers and POWs at the base/prison camp near his home in rural Wisconsin. One of the POWs, a Nazi SS officer, stalks his wife (Connor.) Meanwhile, her Catholic sister (Lyndsy Fonseca) falls in love with Sam, a Jewish soldier (Andy Hirsch.) It's hard for HD video to simulate the look of Technicolor, but Fort McCoy does its best to resemble an old-school Hollywood film. The colors are bright and saturated. It's just a little too explicit -- in language and violence -- to have actually been made in 1944. (It was shot in 2010, and it has taken four years to get a theatrical release.)
Without any sense of the present as a utopia superior to the past, Fort McCoy shows how World War II opened up opportunities to women and Jews. If the film has a major flaw, it's the profusion of subplots in a 100-minute running time. Still, it is a real accomplishment.