“Special Forces” is a French war film. The French title is “Forces Speciales”. It was directed by Stephen Rybojad. He went on location in France, Djibouti, and Tajikistan. It was made for $10 million, but made about one- tenth of that. I guess the world was not ready for a French foray into the American dominated subgenre of mindless special forces action.
The movie opens with a special forces raid in Kosovo that results in the capture of a war criminal. It’s the usual quick cutty cinematography that the subgenre is noted for. The mission goes off without a hitch so the unit can save ammunition for later in the movie and to prove that sometimes these missions are actually accomplished without a hitch. Once is quite enough for a movie like this.
Meanwhile in Kabul, it’s time to get the nonglitch mission set up. Elsa (Diane Kruger) is an intrepid and fearless female reporter (I realize the descriptors are unnecessary). She is taken hostage because she wrote an article about a woman. The Taliban don’t like that sort of thing. The villain is a Bin Laden type named Zaief. He beheads a colleague of Elisa’s and tortures her. The French government want her rescued tout suite because that’s what a cinematic American administration would do.
The mission involves paradropping six commandoes into the hostage area. They rescue Elsa, but would you believe complications arise? Suddenly, but not surprisingly, the team is now in a “who will survive?” scenario. The movie has also become a chase film. Since their radio has taken a hit, as they are wont to do, the boring helicopter egress must give way to the cinematically entertaining hike over the Khyber Pass. It may be entertaining for us, but it’s bound to be force reducing for them. Except for the white lady. The Imperial Storm Trooper-like accuracy of the Taliban can’t last forever. The Taliban is very reluctant to give up his prize female journalist. He does not mind losing warriors like Geronimo didn’t mind in Westerns. Since the French soldiers don’t have to reload, they are able to dispatch the Indians in satisfactory numbers. That pesky quantity over quality dynamic comes into play, however. This takes place over a ten-day period! There is a lot of walking in this movie. It might have taken less time, but the French command was apparently not looking for them. Come on French, losing does not mean just giving up on your people. But then again, it is de riguer in action movies to not have a back-up plan.
“Special Forces” is basically an excuse to kill a lot of terrorists. If movies were reality, we would certainly have gotten payback for 9/11 many times over. But there is reality and there is cinema. This movie is very unrealistic. At least the movie does not claim to be a true story. I know special forces are good at their job, but in the movies they seldom miss and their opponents seldom hit. Until the dam breaks.
As entertainment, the movie is average for its ilk. The acting is good from a fine cast. There is little in the way of character development and the villain is hiss-inducing. I did not really care about any of the French soldiers, other than wondering who was next. And wondering when all this tedious walking will end. The bouts of action are competent, for a French film. Sorry, I couldn’t avoid that. Let me be more positive. Welcome to the subgenre, French. You now have your own “Tears of the Sun”.
GRADE = C-