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Bulgaria near the end of World War I: Conan, warrior and wolf, leads a band of 50 ruthless French fighters who love hand-to-hand combat. Their motto: "We forgot to take prisoners, Captain." At war's end, the unit goes to Bucharest, where Conan tries to keep them out of trouble, defends them when they behave as warriors, and finds he's unsuited for peacetime. His friendship with Norbert, a teacher turned lieutenant, is tested when Norbert accepts a job as court-martial prosecutor because he's learned that Conan will be facing charges and he wants to protect his friend. When they are sent to the Russian border to fight Bolsheviks, Conan is back in his element and Norbert is off the hook. Written by
This is in many ways a very good war film but not in the typical way. The film opens in the closing days of WW1 on the Eastern Front where Capitaine Conan (Philippe Torreton in a Cesar winning performance) leads a band of ruthless hand to hand fighters, equivalent to a modern special forces unit. They prove themselves far more effective than the regular army in the final defeat and are envied by many including a friend of Conan, Lt Norbet (Samuel Le Bihan, IIRC was nominated for a Cesar in this). But when the armistice is signed Conan and his men find themselves in limbo while Norbert, working for the Court Martials finds himself accusing the very men he admired for robbery and murder. This film does take a while to get going but it is worth it, giving time for the characters to develop and also establishing the monotony the soldiers find, going from combat to walking the streets of Bucharest. The film also deals with the beginnings of the Russian Civil War and the problem of soldiers fighting with no motivation. Tavernier's direction is superb and visually the film equals a number of classic war films while the performances help to give it an edge as it goes into territory that Hollywood war film's in particular have tended not to go into.
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