15 Minutes of War, directed and written by Fred Grivois, is a new French war film that shines the spotlight on an incident that isn’t well-known to us stateside. What results is a mostly entertaining but entirely conventional thriller that will entertain you and hold your attention for a little over ninety minutes.
The movie focuses on an operation in Djibouti in 1976 to rescue a bus full of schoolchildren who are being held hostage by terrorists at the Somalian border. Since this is a story with which most audience members will not be aware, the film doesn’t suffer from the predictability that drags down most other true-story thrillers. Instead, you are able to be on the edge of your seat for the entirety of the runtime.
Much of the movie is spent building to the eponymous fifteen minutes of war, so you know when things are going to get crazy, but you don’t know exactly how or what will happen. The film plays with these expectations in a satisfying and enjoyable way, creating a thriller that is adequately tense but not overly rushed.
The main area in which this movie falls flat is the character development. The only character in the film that is relatively well-developed is Jane Andersen (Olga Kurylenko), the teacher of the students who tries to rescue them. None of the other characters have much of a personality with which you can connect. Not even the soldiers of the rescue team have enough development to make them compelling.
Kurylenko does a very good job of infusing her role with humanity. The moments in which she is onscreen are certainly the best in the movie. Alban Lenoir is also good in his role as the leader of the rescue team, even if the character isn’t written in a particularly complex way. He has a lot of natural charisma, and he is the main reason that the military portion of the film still works.
On an emotional level, the movie is mostly resonant, although it does go for a few cheap blows. This film is certainly better at being a heart-pounding thriller than an emotion-packed drama. Thankfully, the movie doesn’t go the jingoistic route, and as such, it has wider international appeal. Instead, the film attempts to go for more basic sympathy, and it works more often than not.
In technical terms, the movie is pretty solid. Although this is a by-the-book action-thriller in terms of both writing and execution, it is done well, and as such, it is effective. The cinematography, editing, and score are all done in a way as to maximize suspense. There isn’t a whole lot of flash, but it accomplishes its goal. The sound design is phenomenal, though. The emphasis on diegetic sounds, especially during the quieter scenes, really helps draw you into the film.
15 Minutes of War may be a somewhat standard movie, but for people who enjoy action-thrillers, this is sure to be pleasing. There is more to recommend about this film than to not recommend, so definitely check it out if you get the chance.
15 Minutes of War hits theaters and VOD on August 2.