Free Men Movie Review

In German-occupied Paris, Younes (Rahim) is a young Algerian who sells black-market goods to North African immigrants. When he's arrested, the cops offer him freedom if he agrees to spy on a local mosque leader (Lonsdale) who's suspected of hiding Jews by giving them identity papers saying they are Muslims. At the mosque, Younes falls for the mysterious Leila (Azabal) and befriends the gifted musician Salim (Shalaby). And he's unnerved to discover that Leila is actually a notorious resistance fighter, while Salim is secretly Jewish.Filmmaker Ferroukhi tells this story with a strong attention to detail, keeping the period settings nicely understated while concentrating on the character interaction, which is complex and involving. But a slow-burning approach, combined with the dry screenplay, never injects much emotional energy into the film, which leaves it feeling almost like a museum piece: a meticulous retelling of an important story without artistic passion.

That said, the actors are all terrific, most notably the magnetic Rahim, through whose eyes we watch the events unfold. He beautifully plays Younes' quiet discovery of each layer of truth, from his initial carefree lawlessness to agreeing to help the authorities and ultimately to risking his life to save people he perhaps should be shunning. But the film beautifully points out that Islam isn't about hating the Jews: it's about respecting human life.And there's a lot more going on in the story. Strong subplots involving both Leila and Salim are only barely touched upon and could actually be expanded into much more engaging movies than this one. And this is a refreshingly restrained depiction of the Nazis. Sure, they're tenacious and inhuman, but they're also never vilified into cartoon villains, which subtly makes them even more chilling. And even if it lacks any real kick, the film is an important account of normal, flawed people doing what they can in terrible circumstances.


Cast & Crew

Director : Ismael Ferroukhi

Producer :

Starring : , , , Mahmoud Shalaby, Farid Larbi, Stephane Rideau, Marie Berto, Zakariya Gouram


Free Men Rating

" Good "

Rating: 15, 2011


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