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123 minutes · 2012
Gillo Pontecorvo's powerful and lucid 1965 docudrama about the Algerian struggle for independence in the 1950s was screened for Pentagon employees in August 2003, though one wonders how helpful it might have been: the terrorists here aren't suicidal or religiously motivated, and their orientation seems quite different from that of contemporary Middle Eastern types. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't see this—it's one of the best movies about revolutionary and anticolonial activism ever made, convincing, balanced, passionate, and compulsively watchable as storytelling. The French aren't depicted as heavies, despite their use of torture, nor are the Algerian rebels, who set off bombs in cafes. In fact the French colonel here (Jean Martin, the only professional actor in the cast) expresses admiration for the rebels, who ultimately achieved their goals when Algeria won its independence. In French and Arabic with subtitles.

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