Inspired by the 2005 riots in Paris, Stéphane, a recent transplant to the impoverished suburb of Montfermeil, joins the local anti-crime squad. Working alongside his unscrupulous colleagues Chris and Gwada, Stéphane struggles to maintain order amidst the mounting tensions between local gangs. When an arrest turns unexpectedly violent, the three officers must reckon with the aftermath and keep the neighborhood from spiraling out of control.
The movie is a complete immersion in the infamous French banlieue. Using drones, the film has a kind of eerie atmosphere that I found fascinating.
In many ways, a kind of sequel to La Haine. Things are worse.
I give it 8 out of 10. Superb.
There was surprise when France chose to submit 'Les Misérables' as their entry for Best International Film at the upcoming Academy Awards rather than Céline Sciamma's beloved 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire', but the decision makes a certain degree of sense. Where 'Portrait' is a timeless instant classic that speaks to the ongoing human condition, Ladj Jay's debut film is so immediate and vital for where France, and indeed Europe, find themselves now. Just as in Victor Hugo's novel, they are on the brink of a massive cultural and political collapse, a crisis that will define their future as a multicultural and economic society. Its mostly conventional structure and approach make it far more accessible than you expect, but this is never at the expense of its intelligence or intention. 'Les Misérables' is a remarkable, electrifying and ultimately shattering film, a stellar debut for Ladj Jay, and most importantly, a work that feels necessary - not just for France, but for those that created it and those who see it. It's a thrilling act of cinematic protest.
- Daniel Lammin
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