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ARMY OF CRIME

Director: ROBERT GUEDIGUIAN

FRANCE • 2009 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • DIGITAL • 139 MIN


THE COURAGE OF RESISTANCE FIGHTERS IN OCCUPIED PARIS DURING WW2 is BROUGHT TO LIGHT IN THIS GRIPPING DRAMA INSPIRED BY THE REAL-LIFE ‘ARMY OF CRIME.’

That was the moniker the collaborationist police authorities used to describe the raggle-taggle band of Jews in hiding and left-leaning fugitives from across Europe who took action against the Nazi invaders. Director Robert Guediguian, previously best known for blue-collar dramas set in his native Marseilles, traces the fortunes of a cell operating under the leadership of Simon Abkarian’s exiled Armenian poet, who survived his people’s genocide under the Turks and finds common cause with the Jews being rounded up, never to return. Particularly chilling is the sense of life proceeding as normal for the rest of the populace, while the likes of Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet’s incendiary-building Jewish schoolboy lurk fearfully in the shadows, and edgy Robinson Stevenin poses as a swimming champion when he’s not stabbing Wehrmacht soldiers. Working together makes these fighters a more effective force, but the risk of capture and torture is with them every single day.

Guediguian certainly doesn’t soft-peddle the eagerness with which the French police assisted the Gestapo in the process of genocide. He cannily casts Jean-Pierre Darroussin as a detective inspector aware of just what’s going on, thus playing on our expectations that the ever-jovial character actor will make a stand for human decency. What follows focuses our attention on how we might react in similar circumstances, transforming a tense, authentic historical saga into a living, breathing testament to the reality that questions of moral commitment never really go away. — Trevor Johnston.

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