Special Forces (France: Forces spéciales), 2011.
Directed by Stéphane Rybojad.
Starring Diane Kruger, Djimon Hounsou and Benoît Magimel.
A female journalist finds herself held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The release of this film is somewhat timely, or untimely depending on your viewpoint, following the death in Syria of noted journalist Marie Colvin. Special Forces is about a French political journalist, Elsa (Diane Kruger), who is captured by the Taliban. The film itself is dedicated to those journalists who put their lives on the line to bring these stories to attention and act as a voice for the oppressed in whatever country they are operating. Though this film is entirely fictional, it is particularly relevant at this time. When a special forces team manages to rescue Elsa, she – and the team itself – are hunted by a Taliban leader who will not stop until she is dead, so as not to lose face with other senior members.
Putting aside the film’s mirroring of real life events, this works reasonably well on a cinematic level. Films of this nature have just become a regularity in the last ten years for obvious reasons. Movies often tend to be identifiers of their time and say a lot about the time in which they were conceived. This is no different, but we have seen this film before though. There’s nothing new, nothing surprising. In terms of characterisation, the special forces unit itself don’t really reveal too much. That in itself is part of their characters as, in reality, they would (you’d assume) concentrate on the job in hand and keep their game face on. That’s not to say we don’t find a little humanity in each member – we do, but fully formed characters? Not particularly. As for Elsa, she’s a little thinly constructed in truth too. She’s courageous, idealistic, strong and caring, but the audience is never allowed to appreciate the character too much.
As for the cast though, there are not masses of depth; they all take what is given to them to play with and play well. Kruger is excellent as Elsa. Djimon Honsou is decent too. He’s usually reliable and is on the money once more. There’s also fine support from Benoît Magimel. The acting is generally very accomplished throughout, but like I say it’s all a little formulaic.
The combat scenes register as sufficient and effective. They’re not game-changing, or near the best of this genre, but they are fine. The sound design is good, but the set pieces are somewhat let down by some erratic editing and strange music choices that just jar. Director Stephane Rybojad holds everything together fairly well, without ever taking things from simply engaging, to engrossing. It’s not hard when watching this for the attention to wane and you won’t delay any trips to the toilet or the kitchen should they come around. Unlike the best cinema has to offer, you’re not going to get lost in Special Forces.
In all it’s passable, but just lacks the gravitas throughout to take it up a level or two. As well as that, the film starts to get a little bit silly and pull itself away from reality towards the end. This French production succumbs to Hollywood finale syndrome and begins to regretfully start throwing logic out the window. This should really be better given those involved, but the film at least manages to involve and not bore its audience.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film ** / Movie ***