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Marion Cotillard, Guillaume Canet, a full complement of Touareg
tribesmen in picturesque robes, beautiful desert landscapes -- sounds
good, yes? But what we get is a slow-paced, dreary movie which seems to
have no particular point to make.
We are in the French Sahara in the 1930s. A conflict is established between a gung-go French captain, the commandant of the local garrison, who is determined to gain glory and promotion by crushing a local rebellion, and his lieutenant (Canet).
The lieutenant appreciates the local culture, speaks the local language and tries to rein in the captain. In flies a French aviatrix (Cotillard) -- she's searching for her lover, an English pilot who has crashed in the desert.
Actually, now that I think of it, there IS a point -- to show that Cotillard looks fetching on a camel. In this the film succeeds but not in much else.
One needs to remember that French (and films from other foreign countries) films are not like American films. Neither the ending, nor the writing, nor the production may be what you might expect if most of what you see are American films. We liked the film, it wasn't great, but I do not consider it a waste of my time. We watched it on TV5, the DISH-TV French extra cost channel. TV5 gave DISH the wrong description, as it was for ONE LAST FLIGHT, a movie about a boy & his grandpa who share their love for aviation. Surprise, surprise, it was about a woman trying to enlist the French Foreign Legion (Légion Étrangère) to help her. We saw it in French and I ignore the subtitles, but my wife reads them. I'm French, she's English. We both concurred that the woman pilot looking for her lost love was NOT married to the lost love (as said elsewhere on this page). He was married to another. Anyway, just take these films for what they are, just a fantasy, and dismiss your critical sense and let your imagination put you right up on that screen, next to the characters as they play out their parts. That's my goal. Hope this helps. Rocky in Arizona
To begin with, the plot is absolutely uninteresting. We have a french
aviator woman, who comes in the Sahara to search for her missing
husband, and an anti-colonialism french soldier who wants to defend the
So what happens in the movie ? Well... they move through a part of the desert, and... that's pretty much it. One or two sub-plots are started, but not finished, the movie wants to focus on its characters, but the total absence of background makes them empty, and we don't care for them a second.
To sum it up : no story, boring characters, uncreative cinematography, and a slow, horrible pace.
When boiled down to a synopsis, Karim Dridi's Le Dernier Vol sounds
like the kind of film that could go one of several ways: a grand
romantic adventure a la English Patient, a story of westerners drawn
into obsession and self-destruction in an exotic land they don't belong
a la The Sheltering Sky or a critique of 20th century French
colonialism a la Fort Saganne with elements of Antonie de
Saint-Exupéry's semi-autobiographical writing, but it doesn't really do
any of them with much enthusiasm, passion or conviction. Instead, it
just drifts aimlessly through nicely photographed Saharan dunescapes as
Marion Cotillard's pilot searches for her missing lover and forces her
way into a punitive expedition led by the ambitious by the book
Guillaume Marquet who mistakenly thinks he's oozing refined charm.
Luckily Guillaume Canet is there as well as one of those experienced
and vaguely spiritual-yet-cynical soldiers who understands the desert
and the Taureg why, he even sleeps with one of them he treats as an
equal to emphasise how unlike his unthinking fellow officers he is
and whose advice is therefore routinely ignored by his mistrusting and
inexperienced superiors who have been de rigueur in desert epics since
Lawrence of Arabia. No prizes for guessing what will happen or that it
won't end well for anyone.
The story is vaguely based on a true incident (albeit with nationalities and details changed and anything worthy of note removed), but the life of the real-life missing pilot, Bill Lancaster, is so much more colourful and exciting than anything that happens in the film you're just left feeling they pointed the camera at the wrong people. A big part of the problem is that the characters just aren't interesting and the actors seem to be unable to bring them to life or carry the audience's sympathy on a largely uneventful journey that feels a lot longer than the film's 94 minutes, none more so that Cotillard. Unfortunately her passion and frustration simply translates on screen as the kind of aloof surliness that some French actresses in particular mistake for strength of character as she goes about losing friends and failing to influence people: you almost feel sorry for Marquet, and that's clearly not the idea at all. She doesn't even display any chemistry with Canet (her partner offscreen as well as on), who at times give the impression that it's one of those family outings he didn't really want to go on and is making a show of stoically putting up with so that everyone knows it. You could almost imagine him wearing a T-shirt saying 'My girlfriend went to the Sahara and all I got was this lousy part in a movie.' The one interesting thing the film does is show that his 'two-bit humanism' is just as disastrously misjudged as Marquet's euphoric embrace of the white man's burden, but the film never bothers to explore the consequences, resolving his conflict with Marquet in the most infantile way possible and simply treating it as a means of getting the two leads alone so the last third can turn into a love story.
It's the kind of film you might be tempted to excuse as a well-intentioned misfire if only you could work out what the film's intentions actually were, but it's got precious little story to tell, few incidents to liven up the trip, no atmosphere or sensuality and has no discernible point to make or even any real point of view. It's something Cotillard, who was nominated for the French equivalent of a Razzie and described the film as the worst experience of her career, was all too aware of: "I fought for a project and I fought for the director because he was the one that brought the project and I fell in love with it, and then I spent two months in the middle of the desert wanting to kill him and wanting to beat myself because I fought for him and he was so bad. He had no idea of what we were doing, he had no idea of what he wanted to do." It's one of those films that's not terrible and not good but just sits there on the screen taking its time doing nothing in particular. One flight that just never takes off.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A small French regiment in the Sahara is having difficulties in their
position about an enemy that looms not far away. Into their camp a
small two engine plane arrives. To everyone's surprise it is a woman
pilot. Marie Valliers de Baumont has come to the area where she
believes her fiancé must have had an accident. The French officers,
especially Antoine Chauvet, is skeptical the fallen aviator survived,
but in Marie's heart, she knows they made a pact and she will find him.
When a sand storm destroys Marie's airplane, she has no other choice but to stick around the soldiers, something Chaubet is reluctant to allow. Marie prevails and become part of the small division. After being attacked and suffering casualties, Chaubet and Marie do everything possible to continue, but the Sahara has another idea for them.
The film directed by Karim Dridi, who co-adapted the material from a novel by Sylvain Estibal. He was trying to re-create an atmosphere in the inhospitable Sahara desert with a built in romance. It was inevitable that Marie and Chaubet ended up together because the passion their encounter provokes in spite of their differences when they first meet. One thing though, Marie had the best intentions for locating the remains of the lost plane, which turned out to be closer than what they thought it would be.
Marion Cotillard and Guillaume Canet had collaborated with more success before. Their appearance in this movie will not add anything to both of their careers. The gorgeous locations were photographed by Antoine Monod and Le Trio Jourban contributed to the tuneful musical score.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
We know that both Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard are hugely talented actors and we also know that in real life they have been in a relationship since 2007 and have a child together, but seeing them in Le dernier vol it is difficult to believe either of the above statements. It is also difficult to engage in the film as the only positive is the cinematography. Apparently a true story, it is set in 1933 yet there is absolutely no sense of period and certainly no period 'feel'. The early thirties was a time when aviators were still attempting new records even six years after Lindbergh's solo Atlantic crossing. We enter the film when a pilot (who we never see) has crashed his plane in the desert in North Africa and has been missing for five days. His long-time mistress and fellow pilot (Marion Cotillard) is searching for him and attempts to get help from a detachment of the French army, themselves about to wage war on rebel tribesman. Essentially we have an uneasy merge of 'quest' movie and Boy's Own Paper conflict between the martinet commander and the peace-loving officer who has spent years winning the trust of the tribesman. To describe it as a disaster is to err on the side of kindness.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Big fan of French and foreign films. Huge fan of both mains actors. I really don't understand how they ended up in such a boring and disappointing movie. No storyline, no action, there's not even an end to this movie. It's like they didn't have enough money to finish filming this garbage. To say i'm even a fan of intellectual type movies, this doesn't even qualify in that category. I had almost bought it new at 35$ because i'm a fan of both actors and french films and i didn't... Bought it used at 4.99$ and i still think it was too much. I'm so disappointed and wasted an evening. The only good thing was the music: very middle-east, Morrocan type, which is why i gave this a 2 out of ten.
The film has some good points. It begins as a film about a French
lieutenant in French Sahara who is trying to prevent his idiotic
captain from causing a full-on crisis between the army and the Touareg.
Along comes a French woman looking for her lost lover. At first it's
just a distraction from the main, more interesting plot. Thus, for the
first hour I really got into the film and was expecting to see the
conflict between the French and the Touareg lead to an exciting climax.
However, as the woman's story takes over the film turns into a disaster
None of the characters are well developed, and it is particularly sad that none of the Touareg were developed as characters. On the good side, the visuals are nice, the soundtrack excellent, and Marion Cotillard is pleasant to look at.
Overall, this film is a prime example of could-have-been-better. A greater focus on the Touareg characters and their motivations, a more in-depth representation of the conflict between the French and the Touareg, and subjugating the love story to the background could have made this a great film.
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