At War, co-written and directed by Stéphane Brizé, is a highly political new film that hopes to bring light to an issue affecting Europe and the world as a whole. However, the movie is unfortunately weighed down by its overtly political nature and doesn’t resonate as it likely should.
This story, of the proletariat fighting back against the bourgeoisie, is one that has been done in film many times before. The classic (but arguably overrated) Norma Rae, for example, told an extremely similar tale forty years ago. So what is the reason for At War to exist? Has something about the struggle changed? Has the struggle remained entirely stagnant? Ultimately, the movie comes across as little more than a statement of aggression at the upper class for exploiting workers unfairly.
One of the biggest problems with this film is that it is excessively long. The movie clocks in at nearly two hours, and it could have been half an hour shorter. Although the first scene is gripping, the rest of the film only goes downhill from there. One can only watch so many negotiations in a boardroom before they get tired of seeing the same thing over and over again. Some variety in the presentation would have been appreciated.
Additionally, the character development in the movie is sorely lacking. The only character who is even remotely memorable is the union leader portrayed by Vincent Lindon. For a film supposedly about supporting the workers, though, you would think that the workers themselves would have been developed with more depth.
As a result, the movie does not resonate emotionally as it should. Seeing these mostly nameless workers fight for their rights isn’t particularly impactful. For us to care about these workers on a personal level, the film would have had to give them a personality or even some identifiable characteristic. Some viewers may connect with them on a personal level if they have been in a similar situation, but a majority of the audience will feel distant and detached from the movie.
That said, Vincent Lindon absolutely lights up the screen in his leading role. Lindon has given many memorable performances over the course of his career, and this would be among them if only the film were equally memorable, as his turn is packed with emotion. This role is definitely less understated than some of the others Lindon has done in recent years, but he does quite well in it.
On a technical level, the movie feels very sloppy and inconsistent in a way that is often distracting. The film jumps between extremely long scenes of negotiations and rapid montages of protests to quite disorienting effect. Perhaps the purpose of this rougher style of filmmaking is to make the movie feel gritty and down-to-earth, but it only succeeds in making the film feel even more artificial.
At War was a disappointing movie. Despite a great performance from Vincent Lindon, the film lacks the structure and character development necessary to make it an effective political commentary. Ultimately, the movie’s anger is overbearing and hurts more than it helps.
At War is now playing in select theaters.