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Rebellion review

Mathieu Kassovitz’s acclaimed drama about the 1988 French Colony hostage situation.

Credit: Lionsgate

April 1988, Ouvea Island, New Caledonia (French Colony). 30 police are kidnapped by Kanak separatists. To avoid conflict, counter-terrorism captain Philippe Legorjus (Mathieu Kassovitz – La Haine) is sent into the heart of the rebels’ base to try and negotiate a peaceful solution. But with the French presidential elections happening, the stakes are higher than anyone could possibly imagine.

The film has taken a lot of inspiration from Apocalypse Now; Philippe Legorjus is very much the antiquity of Captain Willard. Sent into a foreign land to retrieve his comrades, but here Legorjus also has to contend with separatists and politicians both pulling in opposite directions for what they want.

Kudos to director and star Mathieu Kassovitz for showing this full-on brutality which enables us to view what really happened, a relentless and claustrophobic assault on the senses. It takes real guts from the director to add these types of scenes in and it not take anything away from the main story.

The cinematography is handled beautifully, pitching the running battles to the close quarter human interaction in the jungle, that all becomes rather breathless. The towering shots of being underneath the helicopters when in full-on mode is bone-shakingly menacing. War is difficult to put on screen, yet this film captures all the elements that make it so horrifying and unrelenting

Rebellion tells a true story that many of us may not be familiar with, set during the 1988 French elections between Francois Mitterrand & Jacques Chirac. The election story only becomes intertwined into the storyline after an hour, but it’s one of the most crucial angles of the film as it in part gives rule to what Legorjus is trying to stop from happening. Eventually becoming a very political film that shows that the ruling that governed possibly wasn’t thought through properly. Politics in films needs to be handled correctly to keep it interesting, and Kassovitz blends is perfectly into how the story plays out.

However, it’s what happens in the jungle that truly shows the evilness that existed in the French government at the time. For a long period we couldn’t guess which way it would swing and play out, there are so many twists and turns that it bends the mind and hurts the thinking. We felt drawn into the world of the counter-terrorists and it was easy to see why they started to find it difficult to know whose lead they should follow, it even unsettled us and we are just the viewer. It’s been a long time since we were so greatly affected by a war film, and Rebellion dug into our soul and never let go long after the film had finished.

Rebellion dishes out cold blooded killings without thought and care for the audience, yet it’s fully required so we can understand what this “war” meant to everyone involved. A brutal political thriller that delivers a raw and unflinching portrayal of aspects that caused great issues for the French government, and one man in the army.


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