Special Forces

Dir: Stéphane Rybojad
Star: Diane Kruger, Djimon Hounsou, Benoît Magimel, Raz Degan

Sometimes you want a foreign movie which doesn't do anything except entertain, and this would be one such. Shamelessly Hollywood in both style and approach, it contains undeniable flaws - the villains are from the Imperial Stormtrooper school of accuracy, and it has all the usual clichés of its genre. But in the end, it delivers, with a slew of impressive action sequences, set against some absolutely stunning mountain backdrops, and a surprising amount of emotional wallop. Elsa (Kruger), a French journalist investigating Afghan warlord Ahmed Zaief (Degan) is abducted by the warlord, who intends to use her for propaganda purposes. A crack team of special ops soldiers, under Kovax (Hounsou), are sent in to rescue her: while that aspect of the mission succeeds, the extraction process fails, and they're left with no option except to head for the border, with Zaief and his men in hot pursuit.

It's probably fair to see none of the soldiers are three-dimensional characters: there isn't time for that. And it's hardly what you'd call a balanced portrayal of the geopolitical complexity which is Afghanistan. Frenchies = good guys, Taliban = villains. Zaief = really, really, really bad. Any questions? But given the limitations within which it has to work, it does a good job of generating adrenalin, and some of the violence packs a wallop that's above what you'd expect. As the band of brothers dwindles, the situation becomes steadily more dire, and I eventually realized that I was beginning to care about the characters: personality or not, the courage and sacrifice they were demonstrating, to save a woman whose views were harshly critical of their presence, was hard to deny. It has the air of being based on a true story, though I don't think that's the case. However, there's no denying the incredible location work, and great camerawork, which feels like it comes from a much bigger movie than a 10-million euro budget. Like a Royale avec fromage, if it may not be great art, it still hits the spot.

[May 2012]

Mountain tension
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