Movie Reviews

Special Forces: War is Hell

By Wang DexianMovies - 05 January 2012 12:00 AM | Updated 09 January 2012

Special Forces: War is Hell

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Rating: 2 out of 5

The Cast: Diane Kruger, Djimon Hounsou, Benoît Magimel, Denis Menochet

The Buzz:Special Forces” was filmed with the support of the French Military... like how every Michael Bay film of recent memory has been supported by the Pentagon.

The Story: A renowned journalist, Elsa Casanova is in Afghanistan, working to uncover the so-called “Butcher of Women”, Zaief , a Taliban leader. When her plans are uncovered, she is ambushed and kidnapped, prompting the French government to send a... you guessed it, Special Forces team into Pakistan to retrieve her. Of course, things don't go according to plan as the team misses the chopper at its extraction point. thinks: This movie certainly looks impressive, though there are way too many shots of the French military forces donning or operating their gear in awe-inspiring slow motion--making it feel like a military commercial instead of a film at times. Other recent action movie clichés: Shaky camera work and fast jump cuts are also aplenty here. That is not necessarily a bad thing, as it really works for this type of film, especially scenes of urban combat. Coupled with the exotic landscapes of Afghanistan and Pakistan, there is no denying that this film’s a looker.

Unfortunately with all that style, it also seems to be lacking in substance. The director seems to be in love with all the fancy military gadgets, signals and formations to a point that the scenes between each action sequence feel like throwaways--simply minding the time until another big shootout happens.

A lot of the picture focuses on the survival of the unit and Elsa, showcasing the trials and tribulations a professional solider and war reporter goes through, as well as the bond and friendship between soldiers in a unit. We get it. It does bring out the horror and the pure survival instincts that are needed when on the run. In some ways, it reminded us a lot of “Jarhead”.

However, by focusing everything on the journey to bring Elsa back, “Special Forces” gets exhausting and predictable real fast. Members of the unit are lost and innocents are killed by Zaief's mob squad. It just makes for a very linear experience. Instead, we would have loved to have seen some interweaving sub-plot, and there should have been more drama from Elsa's employers and the French government as well, right?  These points were glossed over early in the movie and never made a return in the film and could have been used to interject more drama possibly.

Without any other subplots to move the story in different directions, the story gets stale quick. It becomes a lot like this:

Today: Walk... bad guys come! Shoot, shoot, bang, bang, kill bad guys. More bad guys come. Run!

Next Day: More walking... encounter bad guys, shoot shoot, we're elite soldiers! Oh no, one of us got shot. One guy dies. MASSIVE “WHY GOD” SCREAM from one of the other soldiers.


Gets old quick, doesn't it?

We really wanted to like this film. The cast do deliver a solid performance that shows off the tight camaraderie of an elite unit that has been through some tough missions. There are even plenty of funny lines in those action sequences that I would love to quote... if only they weren't in French.

That being said, not even the solid cast and spectacular visuals could save “Special Forcesfrom its mediocre script, which is a pity. If you enjoy watching people shooting the crap out of each other though, you should definitely check this flick out. It won't blow your mind but it's not bad either.