Assigned to work alongside unethical police veterans Chris (Alexis Manenti) and Gwada (Djebril Zonga) in Paris' Anti-Crime Brigade, Brigadier Stéphane Ruiz (Damien Bonnard) - a recent transplant to the working-class suburb of Montfermeil, where Victor Hugo wrote his famous novel Les Misérables - struggles to establish a working relationship with influential community leaders while attempting to maintain some semblance of peace between his disreputable team and the citizens of the local housing projects. When what should be a simple arrest goes tragically awry, the three officers must individually reconcile with the aftermath of their actions while angling to keep the neighborhood from retaliating with mob violence. Beginning as a Cesar-winning short film, the film was inspired by the 2005 riots in Paris. It was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize (in a tie with BACURAU) and was selected as France's entry for Best ...Written by
This movie deserves a round of applause for tackling such a big issue as the misery, social and ethnical diversity in treacherous suburbs of France. The fact he does that with a refine style and a cautious but reasonable neutrality makes this film even greater. So what is it all about ?
The story focuses on Stéphane, a cop who recently joined an anti-crime brigade of a town next to Paris called Montfermeil. He then quickly discovers the tensions between the different ethnical and social groups of the neighbourhood . He also discovers the curious methods of his team mates that he disapproves in the first place. During an arrest, one of them gets overwhelmed by the events and made a terrible blunder but a drone has filmed all the scene - they must find that drone at all cost.
Beyond the police blunder, it's a denonciation of several misconducts in those areas and the complete state of neglect that all suffer from that is tackled in this film.
The movie is in fact a real whistle blower of a latent conflict. A bit of a bolt out of the blue for those who were still dreaming of a pacified country.
Don't get it wrong. The film does not call for civil war. It's just a depiction of what happens every day in some cities of France. The Victor Hugo's reference is just a wink, a little tribute as Monfermeil (the city where the story takes place) is also where the Thenardier family in Les Misérables (the book) used to live. In fact the movie is more about what the word "Les Misérables"' means than about the story of the book. The film focuses on the miserable people living, working (the cops of course), growing (the kids) in Montfermeil's kind of city (les banlieues) , their interractions and conflicts in those abandoned lands of the French republic. The director wanted to send a message to the authorities and make them realize what are the feelings of the people living there who had been left in the lurch after so many political promises and this for so many years.
The fact that the director tackles this issue through the policemen' eyes is daring and intelligent since we quickly realize that the policemen are part of these miserable people as well. Then starts on a vicious circle which leads to the final phrase of Victor Hugo himself: there is no bad seeds, or bad men but just bad growers.
In terms of rythm, intensity and style the film is a great success . You never loose the tension, you never want to take sides but you want to know where and how it will end up even if you presume it will end up badly. The amateur actors and profesional actors are all of them very genuine especially the bad and the good cop. The scene of the conflict between the gypsies and the kids of the neighborhood was quite of a shock, and the plot in general is gripping from the beginning to the end.
I highly recommend it.
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