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L'ordre et la morale (2011)
A different kind of hostage movie
Rebellion is a good hostage movie. It presents a refreshing balanced view of what taking hostage means, which is not without reminding Dog Day Afternoon. Like it, it depicts real life hostage takers, not as dehumanized machiavellian bad guys, but as relatively ordinary people making bad decisions and the unravelling of violence it unleashes.
But where Dog Day Afternoon, as an American movie, focuses on individual responsibility, Rebellion focuses on the reaction of society and its flaws, and this is where I have problems with the movie. I am not very familiar with that particular historical event, but the director, in its eagerness to show that violence could have been avoided, seems to give a bit quickly absolution to the hostage takers. They killed 4 innocent and unarmed policemen? Well, they regret, so it's OK to not surrender and even take more hostages. They make realistic demands, such as: "state officially that we are not terrorists or we kill the hostages" (!!), and intend to exploit their crime mediatically. What can be wrong with that?
Politburo creativity, Hollywood knowhow
I write there is a spoiler, but actually, the story line is given up in the first minutes of the film, as a prophecy (hate those. I cannot tell the difference between a prophecy and a spoiler). And it is basically the old Moses story: oppressed people - Saviour has born - baby escapes death from evil tyrant - grows up, kicks his ass, takes his place.
The trouble is that instead of a noble cause, like freeing the slaves, there is only crass nationalism. The goal is to replace a foreign despot by a locally grown one... The Kazakh longing to the old days where local tribes ruled the world under the rule of... Attila. This dubious moral is reinforced along the film, where local tribes foolishly prefer freedom to unity behind the divine right leader. No doubt Kazakhstan's 20 year "president for life" was an influential and enthusiastic "sponsor" behind this film.
To the movie's credit, it is beautifully executed. Actors play well, action scenes are well done, Kazakh landscapes views are stunning, and costumes and historical rendering of nomadic camps are carefully made and convincing. There is even an exotic, non American centered scent to many scenes. These are the plus of the movie, for the scenario is entirely conventional, predictable and boring for anyone above 11. Dialogues, in particular, are indigent and inexistent, and characters are shallow to the point of being nothing more than a function (brave hero, loyal friend, loving princess...). The scenario, despite being conventional, manages to be inconsistent: the Kazakh are supposed to be submitted to the Jogars, so why on earth do those need to send spies, killers and invade them? The nomadic Kazakh king lives in a stone city... the Jugar warrior is about to storm the city, but stupidly offers a one on one fight instead, the evil king attempts to kill the prophetic child, but gives him many chances to save his life while grown up and having killed his best warrior. And so on...
In the end, it is a movie with a Politburo script and imagination, but executed with Hollywood knowhow. The best way to enjoy this movie is probably to mute the sound and enjoy the beautiful pictures.