The Wolf's Call (3 stars)

The Wolf's Call

Omar Sy stars in this gung-ho French submarine thriller from Antonin Baudry

'Are we at war?' asks a radio announcer during writer-director Antonin Baudry's punchy submarine thriller. Based on the scenarios explored here, the ongoing Cold War is on the cusp of exploding into full-throttle open conflict. This is an unusual French movie in that it's fairly gung-ho in a way that American films used to be; the French are the heroes, and a line about 'saving the very idea of Europe' speaks volumes about its political stance.

François Civil plays Chanteraide, an acoustic warfare analyst – a fancy way of saying that he's good at listening. Also known by the nickname 'Socks', his remarkable talents make him the go-to guy for submarine surveillance, and his fortunes are intertwined with those of another rising star of the French navy, D'Orsi (played by Untouchable's Omar Sy). When a rogue missile is fired, the two men are faced with nuclear catastrophe, but Socks uncovers a conspiracy aiming to use geopolitics to bring about the end of the world as we know it.

The Wolf's Call is a muscular, absorbing adventure in the spirit of Alistair MacLean. An early set-piece involving a surfacing submarine, a helicopter and a RPG sets a lofty bar in terms of action, but Baudry just about keeps events within the realms of believability; the stakes may be high, but the film grounds the human drama in a plausible reality that even a layman can understand.

It makes sense that the film has been a hit in France, and it's likely to be popular on worldwide streaming services, since US studios seem to have lost their taste for celebrating military might. The Wolf's Call nails the kind of hard-nosed heroism that audiences may well be missing.

Selected release from Fri 6 Dec.

The Wolf's Call

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • France
  • 1h 55min
  • Directed by: Antonin Baudry
  • Cast: François Civil, Omar Sy, Mathieu Kassovitz
  • UK release: 6 December 2019

Chanteraide (Civil) is an acoustic warfare analyst working in French submarine surveillance, and he and D’Orsi (Sy) uncover a conspiracy aiming to start a world war. Muscular, absorbing, gung-ho French thriller with some good action, grounded in plausible human drama.