A review of “Days of Glory” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ** 1/2

Rating: Not Rated but could be R for wartime violence. In French and Arabic with English subtitles

Run Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes

 

 

          The Algerian entrant for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar lacks the punch and imagination of its competition.

In 1943 France had been under German command for three long years. In response to this Nazi stranglehold the First French Army was recruited from North Africa; over one-hundred thousand partisan soldiers who were dubbed “indigènes” (natives).

          “Glory” centers around four young men who choose to do battle for the French, each with his own hidden agenda. Messaoud (Roschdy Zem) is starry-eyed over the concept of a glamorous France and fantasizes about romancing a French mademoiselle. Yassir (Samy Nacéri) is the mercenary sort who hopes to strike it rich.

          Saïd (Jamel Debbouze) is desperate to escape the confines of his family’s humiliating poverty. Only one man – the optimistic and patriotic Abdelkader (Sami Bouajila) seeks to uphold the French ideals of liberté, égalité et fraternité.

          Sounds like the stuff of cinematic glory, especially considering the narrative dark sides of bigotry, shame and disappointment that derail the Algerian’s dreams. Young men fighting to the death for a mother country they’ve never seen.

But as the beleaguered troops move from North Africa to Marseille and across France to bleakest Alsace “Glory” sags with convention.  Burgeoning tensions between French commanders and indigenous troops emphasize the obvious and discrimination rears its ugly head with traditional methodology.

Characters are disappointingly one-note; the Algerian soldiers loyal and hard-working and the French arrogant and unyielding. Surely there was enough socio-psychological grey matter to be explored with a tweak or two of writer/director Rachid Bouchareb’s pen.

World War II films are a dime a dozen; they range from the excellent to the mundane. “Glory” has its moments -- and a few of them speak volumes -- but bottom line it brings nothing new to the table.