In recent years there have been a number of highly original and intelligent depictions of modern warfare – The Hurt Locker (2009) and Green Zone (2010) to name but two. These films help give us a greater sense of what it’s actually like to experience the day-to-day life of conflict, which is never simply shoot-out after shoot-out. They also help remind us how narrow the view on our TV screens can be. Special Forces, I’m afraid to say, does not fall under this category. Far from it.
“One team. One mission. One chance.” – So reads the poster for the film. The mission for this particular Special Forces unit is to rescue a French journalist (Diane Kruger) who has been taken hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan. For the adept team, finding her is not too much of a problem. It is when they miss their pickup, however, that it becomes a relentless cat-and-mouse chase through a harsh environment, which in the end proves just as life-threatening as the team’s pursuers.
Having read the synopsis about a journalist in a foreign, war-torn country, I was half expecting something along the lines of The Killing Fields (1984) or The Year of Living Dangerously (1982) – two quality films around a similar theme – but what I actually got was something closer to the Owen Wilson film, Behind Enemy Lines (2001); needless to say I am not a huge fan of the latter. Special Forces is definitely in the realm of the high-octane, fast-paced film where story and characterisation, more often than not, fall by the wayside. That said, the action sequences in themselves are thrilling enough for a while. I repeat: for a while!
What makes this relentless action even more sleep-inducing is the predictable use of heavy rock music every time a gun is fired. It’s obviously trying to reflect the energy of the moment, but actually it works more as a sedative. Furthermore, it’s hard to be gripped by the action, or feel anything for the characters, when there’s a million cuts per second – not since Michael Bay’s Transformers (all three of them, that is) have I felt so bored during a shoot-out scene.
No stranger to French cinema, German-born actress Diane Kruger has previously starred in films such as Michel Vaillant (2003) and Frankie (2005). Although she’s not terrible in Special Forces, the character she plays feels thin and underdeveloped, no doubt because director Stéphane Rybojad (who previously made TV documentaries) has trouble seeing the story in anything other than black-and-white terms. In other words, he creates a cliché-ridden film that is painfully emphatic and overstated. Gung-ho heroism, anyone?
So if you’re into wholly unoriginal, macho films with copious amounts of gunfire, à la Behind Enemy Lines, then this could be right up your street. Or, if you’re more like me, and you like your films about modern warfare to give you a greater sense of the day-to-day conflict, à la The Hurt Locker, then you should avoid this one at all costs. Still, if I had to choose between an Owen Wilson film and a Diane Kruger film, I’d have to go with the Kruger.
Review courtesy of by Oliver Lunn from Cinémoi.