Free Men (3 stars)

Free Men

A Prophet's Tahar Rahim stars in worthy but flawed WWII espionage drama

Loosely based on real events, this espionage drama set during World War II focuses on the largely overlooked cooperation between Arabic immigrants and the French Resistance. Tahar Rahim (who shot to fame in A Prophet) plays a North African worker named Younes who finds himself trapped in Paris after the Germans occupy it. Arrested by the gendarmes for black-marketeering, Younes is given the choice between prison or spying on a local mosque suspected of passing off Jews as Muslims in order to smuggle them to safety. Things go from tricky to worse when he becomes a double agent, but eventually the cumulative effect of his spying activities serves to radicalise the formerly cynically apolitical young Algerian.

Like Days of Glory and Outside the Law (writer-director Rachid Bouchareb’s recent films about, respectively, the Algerian contribution to the war effort and the Algerian resistance movement following it), Free Men is a worthy attempt at redressing hitherto disregarded history. Unfortunately, director Ismaël Ferroukhi’s film is let down somewhat by a lack of dramatic tension and a protagonist not fleshed out enough to engender the audience’s sympathy.

Selected release from Fri 25 May.

Festival 2011: FREE MEN Trailer

Free Men (Les hommes libres)

  • 3 stars
  • 2011
  • France
  • 1h 39min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Ismaël Ferroukhi
  • Cast: Tahar Rahim, Michael Lonsdale, Mahmud Shalaby

Younes (Rahim) is a young Algerian working in WW II Paris when the Germans enter; the authorities give him the choice between prison, or spying on a mosque suspected of smuggling out Jews disguised as Muslims. Ferroukhi's film is worthy, but lacks dramatic tension and a properly fleshed-out protagonist.

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