Anyone who was lucky enough to see the recent stage play 'A Season in the Congo' in London a couple of years will have a good idea of the backdrop of events here. In time this may too be a feature film. We can only hope.
For those who do not know the background to the setting of these events - Its 1961 in the African Congo and the country is still reeling from the murder of its democratically elected President Patrice Lumumba. Complicit in his death were both the United States and the United Nations to whom Lumumba had appealed to for help when there was rebellion in his army, both had refused, so he turned to the Soviet Union for assistance which brought down scorn from the west. By the time the UN got its act together the country was under the command of Moise Tshombe and Lumumba had been murdered. Belgian Mercenaries working with Condolease troops loyal to Mobutu wanted the UN out and into all this mess arrived a group of Irish Soldiers sent auspiciously under the the guise of a Peace Keeping Mission to a remote location, their actual objective, not immediately clear. The UN, keen to show Mobutu has it was pulling the strings from here on seized several Government controlled buildings in the capital, during which several civilians were killed at a radio station. The UN in turn covered up these events, all the while in a distant outpost the small group of Irish Soldiers face a siege from thousands of troops. Unable to be reinforced and low on ammo water, how long can they hold out?
Thus is setting for the Siege of Jadotville. The European involvement in the Congo is a shameful and embarrassing part of our history which has been all too glossed over and the events depicted here were indeed also covered up themselves. The more films about this subject the better as far as I am concerned. But this is a story about the men on the ground as well as the mess that put them there. Young flush faced lads who have never seen the face of battle before. Their commander, played by Jamie Dornan, knows their in trouble and is quick to improve the defences and the film takes on something of a 'Zulu' quality.
The Casting here has been key Mark Strong is the face of the complex double duelling politic and as always puts in a great performance in his role.
Guillaume Canet heads up the Belgian mercenaries with an appropriate broodiness but the younger cast here, many of them relative unknowns are great. I predict great things to come for several of the actors - including Sam Keeley, Conor MacNeil, Charlie Kelly, Fionn O'Shea and Ronan Raftery to name just a few while Danny Sapani makes for an imposing Tshombe. Characteriasion is a little thin of the ground for some of the characters who become identifiable by what they do (Sniper, Radio Operator) rather than what they say, so its a credit to the cast and director that many of the nameless men manage to make their mark in ones memory. As with most films of this type female roles are somewhat underwritten but such is the nature of the piece. There has been mentions of Jamie Dornan's accent, I personally couldn't find too great a fault in it, it was his acting that constantly drew me on screen. Someone who knows how to do a great deal, just with a look rather than with dialogue. He just gets better in everything I see him in.
This is an extremely well made and worthy film that sets right an injustice that history was told not to tell at the time. It makes one wonder how many more such stories are out there. I am sure hundreds, no thousands. Recommended.
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