Rebellion Review

Rebellion

One man’s terrorist is just another politician.

It’s not quite as famous as that freedom fighter saying I’ve just plagiarised, but boy does it seem appropriate in Mathieu Kassovitz’s new film Rebellion.

Captain Philippe Legorjus is a man stuck between an island rock and a hard place.

Said rock being New Caledonia, and hard place the political landscape of an election gripped France.

The year is 1980 something and the native Kanaks of New Caledonia decide now’s the time to rise up against their French landlords and assert their own claims for independence.

So the Kanaks storm their local gendarme with the intention of a bloodless coup.

Of course, men with guns being both highly stupid and stupidly trigger happy, so a couple of French policemen are killed in the process of rounding up their new hostages.

Still, if the Kanaks wanted the attention of France’s political powers, now they well and truly had it.

And how.

So an elite group of gendarmes known as the GIGN, lead by Legorjus, a man skilled in the art of non-violent negotiation, are dispatched from Paris to broker a peaceful resolution to this potentially lethal standoff.

Or at least that’s what Legorjus thinks.

Turns out the French powers that be value their political standing with a soon to be voting electorate for more than human lives.

Quelle surprise.

Just a couple of days after Legorjus and his troops arrive, another squad of less than diplomatic soldiers are dispatched to resolve this situation with lethal force.

So Legorjus now races against both time and political agendas to try and deliver a peaceful outcome to this New Caledonian uprising, even if he’s the only one who seems to want this.

Written and directed by Mathieu Kassovitz, Rebellion is a taut and dramatic account from recent French history in a similar vein to that of recent Oscar winner Argo.

But while Ben Affleck’s slickly made flick is also a transparent exercise in american propaganda, Kassovitz lives up to his French heritage by showing no such mercy for his own country’s interests.

The truth, not entertainment or rewriting history to suit your own commercial or political agenda, is the primary concern in Rebellion.

And the truth is that France, like every other imperialist nation in the west, has blood on its hands.

Starting with a brief and confusing climatic scene, Rebellion is then told in flashback through the eyes of Kassovitz’s real life character of Captain Philippe Legorjus.

So we get to run the gamut of emotions he goes through during this little known chapter in New Caledonian history, as Legorjus starts to build trust with the idealistic leader of the Kanak cause.

Seeing how this film ends at the very beginning, even if you don’t really understand the context, could easily have scuppered any dramatic tension from Rebellion.

And yet that’s not the case at all; Kassovitz keeps you hooked through his understated acting about a subject that’s clearly close to his heart.

As Rebellion reaches it’s bloody yet inevitable conclusion, you can’t help but wonder about the increasingly corrupt and self-serving actions our governments take in our name for their own popularity and success.

But the people who write the history books get to decide who’s a terrorist, and who’s not.

Jonathan Campbell

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April 2013
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