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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

DVD - Free Men - directed by Ismael Ferroukhi

Star rating - 7/10

Tahar Rahim was simply unforgettable in director Jacques Audiard's  2009 A Prophet. He has the lead role again here in a film about a lesser known part of World War II history - the role the Algerian immigrant community played in the French Resistance movement against the occupying Nazis. 

Rahim plays Younes, a fictional character who helps to relate real life historical events, who is a petty criminal simply trying to wheeler deal his way to making enough money in Paris to allow him to return to Algeria. Arrested by the police, he reluctantly finds himself as a spy on the comings and goings at the city Mosque as a way of avoiding further police attention. It's a role he soon throws off however, as he finds the resistance characters sheltering there far more of an attractive proposition than the murky Vichy state machinery. 

He befriends Salim, a talented and charismatic Algerian singer, who as a Jew is in danger from the increasingly anti-Semitic activities of the Germans army. And he develops a mutual respectful relationship with the head of the mosque, even though the latter is aware of Younes's previous disloyalty.

Rahim is very convincing, although the role is not as powerful as that of Malik El Djebena in The Prophet. And there is solid support from Michael Lonsdale as the mosque leader; and from Mahmud Shalaby as Salim. Free Men could probably have benefitted from a bit more tension; some of the plot developments felt a bit telegraphed. But it's timely to be reminded of the role of the Algerian community in the French Resistance movement. 

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