Movie Review: “Special Forces”

ImageThe commandos are grizzled and grinning, loaded into choppers, zipping into trouble spots and dealing death with skill and stealth.

“I love this job!” one declares.

And afterwards, after silently sniping away at the bad guys, tossing a well-timed grenade here and there and slitting the occasional evil throat, they fly back to their aircraft carrier, anxious for their next leave to visit girlfriends and wives.

But in “Special Forces,” they’re flying back to the aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle. They’re commanded by Tcheky Karyo. And they’re speaking French.

“Special Forces” is a routine commando action film about elite French fighters sent to rescue an intrepid French reporter (Diane Kruger). Elsa Casanova has been on the trail of a brutal Western-educated warlord (Raz Degan of Oliver Stone’s “Alexander”), and he’s turned the tables on her and captured her and her driver-“fixer” Amen (Mehdi Nebbou).

The French president declares “No French woman will be decapitated (on TV) for the world to see.” Send in the Special Forces.

The commanding Djimon Hounsou is well-cast as the leader of the team sent to Pakistan’s Wild Western tribal regions to fetch her. His six man team has “types” any fan of combat films will recognize — even if they sometimes (no always) speak French. There’s the bearish Victor (Alain Figlarz), the even gruffer Lucas (Denis Ménochet) and the sensitive sniper Elias (Raphaël Personnaz). How sensitive?

“I don’t even hate you,” he yells, at one point. In French.

Director Stéphane Rybojad filmed a French TV documentary about soldiers, so you’d expect the details to be spot on. But the firefights are more Hollywood than you’d expect. The commandos stand up and line up for toe-to-toe shootouts with waves of Taliban. John Wayne isn’t dead. He’s French.

The team, and the hostage, have to trek and fight their way through stunning deserts and snowy mountains, because the first casualty in war — OK, war FILMS — is the radio. In the movies, the myth of the “surgical strike” and “sniper who never misses” live on. Technology only lets you down when that would make for a shorter movie.

But even in its over-the-top moments, “Special Forces” is solid entertainment, a chest-thumping (and reporter-hating) recruiting film in the  “Act of Valor” mold — but with a French accent. 

MPAA Rating: R for language and some violence

Cast: Djimon Hounsou, Diane Kruger, Benoit Magimel

Credits: Directed by Stéphane Rybojad, written by  Michael Cooper, Stéphane Rybojad. An eOne release.

Running time: 1:49

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