French actor-filmmaker Mathieu Kassovitz (Gothika) takes on a major event in his nation's colonial history with this true action-adventure set on the lush South Pacific island of New Caledonia. It's a muscular, harrowing military thriller that has echoes of Zero Dark Thirty in its urgent story's drive to a big action climax. And it was made a year earlier.
The events take place in 1988, as politicians in France are preparing for general elections when an uprising breaks out in New Caledonia and several people are taken hostage by Kanak islanders. So French special forces captain Philippe (Kassovitz) assembles a crack team to diffuse the situation. Their goal is to facilitate talks to find a peaceful solution, but the local French politician (Martin) and military bosses are keen on a much more aggressive approach to crush any percieved rebellion. This is especially frustrating to Philippe after he meets the Kanak leader (Lapacas) and discovers that they also want peace, and that the whole situation is the result of panic and inexperience.
As the military and government pushes violence over peace, the story becomes increasingly intense. The political gamesmanship is shocking, as candidates falsely label the Kanaks as "savages" to get votes while arrogant leaders make snap decisions thousands of miles away in Paris. So the film begins to feel like a real attempt to right France's colonial wrongs, and it's infused with the righteous anger of centuries of mistreatment of indigenous peoples. It even opens with the caption, "The truth hurts, but lies kill".
All of this makes the film feel somewhat manipulative, as Kassovitz forces us to take his side in the issue, complete with a bombastic score that continually reminds us how grave this situation is becoming. But it's a skilfully crafted film that bristles with realistic energy. Several scenes are shockingly honest, drawing out the complexities of these real people who are at the mercy of narrow-minded politicians on the other side of the earth. And the ways this story echoes in our headlines today is especially haunting.
Production compaines: France 2 Cinéma, UGC Images, Studio 37, Nord-Ouest Productions
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz
Screenwriter: Mathieu Kassovitz, Benoit Jaubert, Pierre Geller
Starring: Mathieu Kassovitz as Philippe Legorjus, Iabe Lapacas as Alphonse Dianou, Malik Zidi as JP Perrot, Alexandre Steiger as Jean Bianconi, Daniel Martin as Bernard Pons, Philippe Torreton as Christian Prouteau, Sylvie Testud as Chantal Legorjus, Jean-Philippe Puymartin as Général de Gendarmerie Jérôme
Also starring: Christophe Rossignon