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In 1954 during the final days of French military involvement in Indochina French Army Colonel Pierre-Noel Raspeguy is leading his paratroopers in the decisive battle of Dien Bien Phu. A weakened French garrison faces a major assault by Communist Viet Minh troops. Colonel Raspeguy's frantic calls for reinforcements only brings a token force of a planeload of paratroopers and ammunition. When their position is overrun by the enemy Raspeguy and his men are taken prisoners. After the peace treaty they are released and they return to France where Colonel Raspeguy receives the command of a new airborne regiment bound for Algeria. The French are trying to prevent Algeria from obtaining full independence from France. The French Army is engaged in counter insurgency operations in both urban and rural environments against the Algerian guerrilla led by the Algerian National Liberation Front. This is Colonel Raspeguy's last chance to prove his command abilities and to save his military career. Written by
The more honored documentary like film, The Battle for Algiers by Gillo Pontecorvo is considered the last cinema word on the subject of the title and this film is often overlooked. Yet Lost Command has a lot to recommend it and it's a pity it doesn't get more acclaim than it does.
This is a retelling of a part of the Algerian War for Independence which ate like a cancer at the French body politic. For reasons best left to French historians, the Fourth Republic of France when it was created after World War II, decided to reassert it's sovereignty over its colonial possessions. France was then involved with a whole lot of brushfire wars in its colonies.
The film opens actually in French Indochina at the Battle of Dienbienphu where the French got themselves surrounded and the guerrillas they had been fighting for years came out in the open. Among others surrendering was Anthony Quinn's regiment of paratroopers which included the unit historian Alain Delon and George Segal an Algerian Moslem serving in the French army.
Quinn is a tough and charismatic leader of his troops who's risen up through the ranks to become a Lieutenant Colonel. He's not got any family connections, but he's not above making a few of his own by romancing the widow of his commander Michelle Morgan to get out of the doghouse he's found himself in. The French army as in the days of Dreyfus is looking for scapegoats for Dienbienphu.
Quinn gets command of a new unit of paratroopers assigned to Algeria and upon getting there finds his old comrade Segal now thoroughly radicalized and fighting for independence. Quinn sees an opportunity for promotion and a chance to clear himself if he does a good job in Algeria. Delon is horrified by the brutality of the war on both sides, even more so when he's made a fool of by Claudia Cardinale who is Segal's sister and seduces him into allowing her access to the French command headquarters.
Though the French gave independence to their other African colonies like French West and French Equatorial Africa and Tunisia and Morocco, for some reason they wanted to hang on in Algeria. In their minds they deluded themselves into thinking that it was part of metropolitan France. After the action in this film concludes, the Fifth Republic was formed and Charles DeGaulle returned to power for the express reason of dealing with the bloody war in Algeria. Only DeGaulle had the prestige and clout to get the French to quit Algeria. It was a personal and political risky position to take as DeGaulle soon found out. Time has proved the wisdom of what DeGaulle did.
In a way all of the leading characters either get what they want or are proved right. You'll have to see the film to get my meaning.
The film was shot in Spain which served as Algeria. The battle scenes are excellently done and the players are all well cast. By all means catch this film if it is shown on television.
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