Special Forces: Film Review

Special Forces - Diane Kruger
The bottom line: This French military thriller demonstrates that Hollywood doesn't have a monopoly on mediocre action films.

An elite French military unit battles the Taliban to rescue a kidnapped journalist.

Opens Oct. 12 (Entertainment One).

The by-the-numbers military thriller Special Forces has at least one distinction—it provides a reassuring reminder that France is as capable of producing of producing mindless action movies as we are. This tale of an elite military unit assigned to rescue a war correspondent kidnapped by the Taliban is as frenetic and ultimately mind-numbing as a Call of Duty videogame, only without the thematic depth.

Diane Kruger plays the hapless journalist Elsa, who, along with her guide, is kidnapped by Taliban warlord Ahmed (played, in an ironic bit of casting, by the Israeli actor Raz Degan) after she interviews an Afghan woman about the abuses she’s suffered. Cue the French government deciding that this transgression will not stand and sending in the titular unit headed by the veteran soldier Kovax (Djimon Hounsou).

Violent mayhem ensues, in the form on an endless series of high-octane action sequences that, due to Stephane Rybojad’s haphazard direction and the incoherent editing, manage to be utterly tedious despite the copious amounts of hardware and ammunition unleashed and a body count that rambles any of the Rambo films.

Things become marginally more interesting when things quiet down and the group, after liberating Elsa, find themselves unable to connect with their transport home and are forced to travel on foot through a mountainous region of Pakistan while being pursued by Ahmed’s seemingly unlimited number of henchmen.

Clearly meant to be an inspiring tale of military heroism—the film is dedicated to the soldiers and journalists who have lost their lives in the conflict—Special Forces is mainly notable for its hard-boiled characters barking out their clichéd dialogue in French rather than English. Despite the clearly lavish production values and Hounsou’s commanding charisma, it’s strictly Gallic B-movie fare.  

Production: Easy Company, Studio Canal.

Cast: Diane Kruger, Djimon Hounsou, Denis Menochet, Benoit Magimel, Raphael Personnaz, Alailn Figlarz, Alain Alivon, Raz Degan, Mehdi Nebbou, Morjana Alaoui, Tcheky Karyo.

Director: Stephane Rybojad.

Screenwriters: Michael Cooper, Stephane Rybojad.

Producers: Thierry Marro, Benoit Ponsaille.

Executive producer: Benoit Ponsaille.

Director of photography: David Jankowski.

Editor: Erwan Pecher.

Production designer: Christophe Jutz.

Costume designer: Celine El Mazouzi.

Composer: Xavier Berthelot.

Rated R, 107 min.