Film Review: ‘Rebellion’


Following on from this year’s Academy Awards comes Mathieu Kassovitz’s Rebellion (L’ordre et la morale, 2011), a film certainly reminiscent of nominees Zero Dark Thirty and Argo, complete with themes of terrorism and and shot in a pensive, Bigelow-like way. Kassovitz takes on the lead role of Philippe Legorjus, a hostage negotiator who’s dispatched to New Caledonia to address a situation in which the indigenous Kanaks are holding twenty police officers captive. Based on real events and set in 1988, Capitaine Legorjus leads a team of GIGN workers to the French territory, in a bold attempt to rescue the aforementioned detainees.

Legorjus attempts to form a relationship with the leader Alphonse (Iabe Lapacas) in order to ensure the safety of his fellow countrymen, however upon arrival it soon transpires his job is to become harder given the obtrusive introduction of the French army, who take hold of matters somewhat carelessly, causing Legorjus to realise he will be fighting more than one battle, as those in power are keeping one eye on the forthcoming presidential elections.

Rebellion is an intelligent and slow-burning production, devised in such a way that the audience doesn’t really take a side. The title sets itself up as being a straightforward hostages versus terrorists narrative, yet as we progress deeper into the story we soon realise that there are good, honest people amongst the antagonists, and conniving, dishonourable amongst the supposed heroes of the piece. You sympathise with the Kanaks’ plight and their fight for independence, and as such you are able watch on objectively and impartially, which adds to the overall intrigue. Kassovitz implements a terribly disconcerting atmosphere too, producing a film that is both taut and suspenseful from the off.

Such an ambiance is enhanced with a great score, and the sound design is chilling, with the noises of the forest constantly present. Such a foreboding feeling is mostly due to the fact that we find out at the very start of the film that Legorjus’ entire mission fails, and such news provides the feature with a lingering sense of anxiety, as we anticipate everything going wrong. Meanwhile, Kassovitz is outstanding in the lead role, turning in a fantastic performance in a film that is told entirely through his perspective, allowing the actor to appear in almost every single scene – and the film is all the better for it.

Rebellion is a return to form for Kassovitz as, following a somewhat unproductive stint in Hollywood, he returns back to his homeland to produce a film that is arguably his finest piece of work since 1995’s La Haine. Although Rebellion is certainly as arresting as the comparable American Oscar nominees, given this is French history we are delving into rather than American, you may just find it a little harder to find a local cinema showing it. If you can, however, then this is an absolute must-see.

Stefan Pape