Army of Crime (15)

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The ViewEdinburgh Review

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Review byMatthew Turner01/10/2009

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 139 mins

Engaging, well made and superbly acted French WWII drama that offers a new perspective on the resistance movement.

What's it all about?
Directed by Robert Guediguian and based on a true story, Army of Crime opens with a group of people being driven to their deaths as a voiceover names each character and informs us that they died for France. The group turn out to be the members of a Paris-based communist and immigrant resistance faction known as the Manouchian group, led by Armenian poet and factory worker Missak Manouchian (Simon Abkarian).

The film then flashes back to detail how the members of the group came together, focussing on a handful of different characters, including: angry young French Jew Marcel (Robinson Stevenin), who begins assassinating Nazi officers on the streets after his father is deported; reckless young Hungarian Marxist Thomas (Gregoire LePrince-Ringuet), who becomes an explosives expert; Missak's beautiful, devoted wife Melinee (Virginie Ledoyen) and Marcel's flame-haired lover Monique (Lola Naymark), who strikes a self-serving deal with the collaborating detective (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) assigned to track down the group.

The Good
The film's title is an allusion to Jean-Pierre Melville's classic 1969 resistance drama The Army of Shadows and Army of Crime provides a fascinating new perspective on that story, detailing the little-sung efforts of the communist resistance movement within occupied Paris.

The performances are fantastic, particularly Abkarian as the initially reluctant Missak and Stevenin as the nerves-of-steel Marcel. There's also strong support from Virginie Ledoyen and Lola Naymark, while Jean-Pierre Darroussin delivers a complex performance as the oddly sympathetic Inspector Pujol.

The Great
Guediguian orchestrates some terrific, nail-biting sequences as the group carry out a series of precision-planned attacks and somehow manage to escape with their lives. In addition, Guediguian doesn't shy away from the horrors of the war, with a blowtorch-based torture scene proving particularly hard to stomach.

Worth seeing?
In short, Army of Crime is a well directed, impressively acted and thoroughly engaging WWII drama that offers a new and genuinely fascinating perspective on the French resistance movement. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 26/04/2019 10:58

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