Shockingly; I only got around to watching Saving Private Ryan this year. Not a fan of the war genre, and guilty of all too readily writing them off as “boys films”, I tend to avoid them. As my dad is a big fan of war and western movies; I think the overexposure to John Wayne and similar actors on Sunday afternoons have resulted in this stereotyped reaction. Having recently seen a number of Clint Eastward Spaghetti Westerns (which I completely loved), perhaps I have to thank dad for laying the foundations all those years ago. When I saw Forces Speciales (Special Forces) I immediately had the same knee-jerk reaction: set in Afghanistan, I was almost positive I wouldn’t like it. Actually, I was very pleasantly surprised.
Special Forces stars Diane Kruger as war correspondent Elsa Casanova who is taken hostage by the Taliban. Threatened with execution, the French special forces unit is promptly dispatched, by word of the Prime minister, to ensure her safe return. Casanova quickly forms a bond with the group of soldiers who risk their lives to bring her home safely. As they battle not only the enemy but also with the elements in this turbulent environment; who or what will kill them first: the terrorists or the dangerous desert?
To say that Special Forces is a film about war is a bit of a misconception. Set in a hostile environment, with soldiers and weaponry it’s easy to take a look at this and assume it’s about combat. Whilst war is an important part of this feature, Special Forces is more about relationships than anything else, and more specifically; the camaraderie between the members of this special forces unit. Each of the characters has a history; they have all clearly worked together before when dispatched on a similar mission (one of them is only known by the nickname Tic Tac, which only illustrates just how close they are). The chemistry and banter between the soldiers is easily one of the best things about the film: every one of them is incredibly likeable, making it difficult not to sympathise with their situation.
Stephane Rybojad’s Special Forces is a great directorial debut. The cinematography is wonderful; I found the juxtaposition between the brutality and violence exorcised by the Taliban against the beautiful Afghanistan scenery stunning. Whilst the script and plot faults a little at times, the story is still engaging. With good pacing and an excellent performance from Kruger, even though it’s not intellectual fodder it will prove as perfect Friday night viewing.
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