Published Sep 19, 2011Much like far superior international directors that come to America, make some degrading mainstream films and return home to try their hand at a dignified art film (Wayne Wang with Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Paul Verhoeven with Black Book, to name a few), Mathieu Kassovitz has gone the route of making an important French political film with Rebellion after crapping out Gothika and Babylon A.D.
It just sucks that it seems to be a vanity piece to showcase his acting and directing chops, leaving us to wonder what happened to the director that made La Haine or even the trashy, but fun, Crimson Rivers.
Using a fictionalized story to maintain apropos drama and thematic heft, this look at righteousness in relation to morality and the obvious shades of grey in any conflict tackles the 1988 civil unrest in New Caledonia, a French colony. Specifically, detailing the hostage taking in Ouvéa when the Front de Libération National Kanak Socialiste invaded a French police post and took hostages. Rebellion unfolds partially in flashback, telling this story while a counterterrorism group — the National Gendarmarie Intervention Group — searches caves to find the 26 kidnapped men.
Since every location looks exactly the same and most of the drama involves men either yelling or making broad expository remarks, most of the film comes off as dry, uninspired filler, covering the same territory as every other armed conflict story, only without any vision or intensity.
Kassovitz uses some clever stylistic techniques to show flashbacks, integrating voiceover, stop-motion imagery and a revolving sense of space that juxtaposes images over one another, but it's the only flourish in an otherwise static and didactic movie.
The latter half fares better, once the GIGN engage the Kanaks, generating added peril and conflict, but everything still resides in the realm of cliché and contrivance, having a singularly male vision that reminds us that there is more than one perspective to any given incident.
While harmless and certainly competent, there's just nothing here of interest beyond the actual subject matter, which could just as easily be read in a history textbook. (MNP)