Already addressed in Rachid Bouchareb’s stirring Days of Glory from 2006, the ignored wartime contributions of France’s African troops get one other airing on this new drama. This time, the movie offers with the Senegalese corps somewhat than Maghrebi, and the business has moved on sufficient to have a bona fide celebrity of that heritage toplining, within the form of Omar Sy. On its French launch, Sy was frolicked to dry within the press for suggesting that the west paid disproportionate consideration to conflicts near house, such because the warfare in Ukraine, somewhat than ones within the world south. How this timid and ineffectually dramatised movie may have used a few of that edge.
Sy performs Bakary, a Fula herdsman who’s press-ganged into France’s army ranks throughout the first world warfare alongside together with his son Thierno (Alassane Diong). Terrified for his child, he rapidly begins searching for an out, attempting to safe him a job within the mess safely away from the entrance. However Thierno scuppers the plan by getting within the good graces of Lieutenant Chambreau (Jonas Bloquet), who promotes him. Atypically non-racist and egalitarian, Chambreau is however nonetheless to be mistrusted due to his suicidal fixation on taking a close-by hill to be able to impress his basic father.
Director Mathieu Vadepied, beforehand artwork director on Sy’s smash hit Intouchables, will get a go for the compulsory trench-storming centrepiece scene. However there’s a fatally hesitant high quality to the storytelling right here, with little sense of who – past being father and son – Bakary and Thierno are as people and the way they really feel about their enforced ordeal. It additionally feels geographically imprecise, with a north African fennec fox inexplicably current at one level in what is meant to be mainland France, whereas the usually irrepressible Sy is stranded in an oddly distracted limbo. (The headstrong Diong, licensed by the military to defy his father’s authority, does higher.)
Much more surprisingly, for many of the movie there may be solely transient and muted expression of the outrage over colonial exploitation. When Vadepied does lastly broach the query of why black troopers’ sacrifices for la patrie have been obscured, it’s in a sideways and virtually deferential method that feels out of step with the very critical questioning of France’s colonial legacy happening in the true world. This seems like a missed alternative.