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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » March 29, 2012
Film review
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Special Forces
March 29, 2012   
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For his feature debut, Stephane Rybojad, so far known as a documentary director, has been tasked with coming up with France’s answer to an American action movie. Though he had a 10-million-euro budget and several A-list actors from different corners of the world at his disposal, the bar was clearly set too high. In the first days after its release in France, Special Forces drew an audience of under 200,000—hardly a massive success.

Still, those with an appetite for classic Rambo-style entertainment will find this movie fairly bearable—except, perhaps, for the scenes in which wounded or dying protagonists deliver lofty, farewell-world speeches.Reporter Elsa (Diane Kruger—Troy, Wicker Park, the National Treasure series) gets kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan. A rescue team is sent out in the form of six of France’s finest commandos led by Kovax, played by Djimon Hounsou (Gladiator, Blood Diamond, Amistad), an ex-model-turned-Hollywood-star, originally from Benin. The character bears an uncanny resemblance to Albert Laurent, a character Hounsou played in Michael Bay’s The Island from 2005. That character, a long-time member of GIGN (Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale), France’s top anti-terrorist unit, headed a team of fugitive-hunters. Special Forces resembles a prequel chronicling that character’s early years.

The operation to rescue Elsa as such is a piece of cake, but trouble with communications and other unpleasant surprises force the commandos to flee from the Taliban across hostile territory, aiming for a mountain pass in the Hindu Kush. Not everybody will make it. On their way, the commandos kill dozens, if not hundreds, of adversaries, while proving they are real men with no fear of death.The basic idea is nothing new, of course. Compared to other action movies made in the last decade, Special Forces is closest to Tears of the Sun by Antoine Fuqua from 2003, which starred Bruce Willis as a flawless, fearless warrior leading a small rescue team to save a beautiful doctor (Monica Bellucci) and several dozen homeless locals in civil war-stricken Nigeria. Fuqua’s American commandos never hesitated in taking a risk when it came to saving civilians, women and children in particular. In contrast, there is only one woman in the Rybojad flick, but she is an important figure in the movie. At one point in the film, a Parisian politician is heard saying that “it is unacceptable for the world to see a video in which Islamists decapitate a French journalist.” Apart from such irritating grandiloquence, which prompted a certain reviewer to describe this movie as “propaganda commissioned by French military recruiters,” one of the most annoying things about Special Forces is the sloppy production. In the opening scene, the commandos are on a mission in Kosovo, but oddly enough, all the cars have French license plates. As for the upsides, the movie has good cinematography by David Jankowski. In his first feature film, he comes up with some dynamic and spectacular shots, while capturing the beauty of the exotic locations where Special Forces was filmed.
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