In Vietnam, 1954, a French platoon isolated behind enemy lines tries to come back. It is led by the inexperienced, idealistic sous-lieutenant Torrens, and by adjutant Willsdorf, a WWII veteran of the Werhmacht.
In 1954, the Indochina War begins to come to a close following France's defeat by the Viet Minh at the deadly Battle of Dîen Bîen Phû. French forces are in full retreat and risk being overrun at every turn -- including the 317th Platoon, a unit of French soldiers and Laotian allies who are led by the idealistic but inexperienced sous-lieutenant Torrens and adjutant Willsdorf, a former soldier in the German Wehrmacht during WWII. Their survival depends on completing a trek through the dense, jungle-laden, expanse of enemy territory that stands between them and the safety of the nearest French outpost. Written by
Dr. Jay Trotter
After the Dîen Bîen Phû's defeat in may 1954, which marked the end of French sovereignty in Indochina, a small group of French soldiers in an isolated stronghold try to avoid capture by crossing the enemy's lines to join their main forces. In this journey few will survive.
Former war correspondent during this conflict, Schoendoerffer filmed this movie in a so realistic way that it seems to be a document shot during the battle. But unlike many war movies, this one is not only based on the visual and sound effects. Its interest lies in the portray of the two main characters.
Torrens, the young, unexperienced and idealisic lieutenant (played by Jacques Perrin) who has volunteered to serve a lost cause and die for it. He has the intelligence of letting Willsdorf lead the troops, seems lost at first in the middle of this human wreckage but shows courage and strength when needed.
Willsdorf, the experienced "adjudant" (sargeant), a veteran worshipped by his men. Since WWII when he was enlisted in the German army ( he comes from Alsace, a german speaking part of France claimed by Germany), he has experienced many battlefields. He loves Viet Nam, her people and her culture but knows that everything is lost and that he'll have to abandon it soon. But in spite of that he has a mission to fullfill, save as many of his men (mostly vietnamese partisans) as possible and he intends to achieve it.
In just 90 minutes we learn everything about them, their weaknesses, ideals and hidden secrets which make them simples human beings trying to survive in the middle of a mad world.
Of course some will say that this movie promotes war, violence and the romantic heroes made for it (Willsdorf)while his only aim was to testify about a forgotten war and all of those who fought in it, whatever their flag.
Definitely the best movie about the Indochina war.
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