An irreverent comedy in the style of the original M.A.S.H., this wartime romp takes an entertaining look at 24 hours in the life of a group of humanitarian workers in the Balkans in 1995. The film is funny, tense and packed with layers of drama, as Spanish filmmaker Fernando Leon de Aranoa cleverly recreates the setting with striking detail. Since it feels so realistic and is populated with lively characters, the film is thoroughly entertaining, even if it only barely seems to crack the surface.
It opens as aid worker Mambru (Benicio Del Toro) and his local translator Damir (Fedja Stukan) are trying to remove a body from a well so they can clean up the water supply for an isolated village. But their only rope is too frayed to work. Then jaded American colleague B (Tim Robbins) arrives with French rookie Sophie (Melanie Thierry), and as they try to find a rope they are joined by sexy Russian worker Katya (Olga Kurylenko), who has a past with Mambru. But there are constant roadblocks, literally and figuratively, as they try to solve this relatively simple problem. Along the way, they pick up a young orphan (Eldar Residovic) and try to reunite him with his family.
Every situation these people encounter is fraught with chaos, from the absurdities of military regulations to the complexities of local politics to the constant possibility of injury or even death. The filmmaker creates a terrific blackly comical tone that stresses the gallows humour these workers require to survive in an environment where children run around carrying big guns and rules are more important than innocent people's lives. This offbeat tone is engaging, especially with the snappy performances from Del Toro and Robbins as experienced men who know the ropes but insist on playing the game by their own rules. Thierry and Kurylenko are also good in less developed roles as the naive newbie and the steely ex, respectively. And Stukan and Residovic, plus a strong supporting cast, add lots of local colour.
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Blocked writer Gil (Wilson) is visiting Paris with his wife Inez (McAdams) and her high-achieving parents (Fuller and Kennedy). When they run into Inez's know-it-all ex (Sheen), Gil starts having second thoughts about everything. He also begins to wish he'd lived in Paris in the artistic heyday of the 1920s, and is stunned one night to find himself in some kind of magical time-warp, rubbing shoulders with F Scott Fitzgerald (Hiddleston), Gertrude Stein (Bates) and Ernest Hemmingway (Stoll). He also begins to fall for Adriana (Cotillard), a muse for Picasso and Modigliani.
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