. . . and just as generic as the translated title sounds. There’s not much wrong, and quite a bit right, with this ‘Band of Algerian Brothers’ tale, but Rachid Bouchareb's well-built fact-inspired/WWII story can’t get past its textbook mentality. With France under Nazi occupation, waves of Algerian patriots rush to enlist in the French infantry. Ironically for many, their first look at the ‘homeland’ will be as liberators. But they wind up facing all the horrors, stupidities, friendships & high mortality rates of grunt soldiers as uncomprehending/condescending French officers use them as cannon fodder. Eventually, we focus on four men who volunteer for a dangerous ‘forward assignment,’ hoping to prove their worth & gain their due. It’s all convincingly presented, with individual stories & group relationships that ring true, but not as involving as it should be. Perhaps if the Algerian backstories were more fleshed out we’d feel how dual national-identities forged under the systematic indignities of French colonial justice tore at them. The only thing the film moves you to do is take notes.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Included in the EXTRAs is Bouchareb’s animated/rotoscoped short L’AMI Y’A BON /THE COLONIAL FRIEND/’05 which tells a similar wartime tale from French Colonial Senegal. Abstracted to its essentials, we follow another volunteer French colonial army who demand their rights and get massacred for the asking. Simple, forceful, and building more emotional force in eight little minutes than its big brother feature.