Days of Glory review by Jackass Tom

Since Saving Private Ryan there has been a resurgence of modern WWII films. In the late 40s and 50s there were a number of great WWII films including From Here to Eternity, Bridge Over River Kwai, and of course the John Wayne films like Sands of Iwo Jima. Every decade, it seems there is a new run of WWII films, but in the 90s Spielberg hit new highs for showing wartime lows with Saving Private Ryan. It was a film that, unlike any before it, gave the audience the feel of intensity that soldiers of WWII may have felt in the trenches. In 2006, Clint Eastwood struck up the subject again with Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima; a pair of films that told two different story from the same moment during the war. Sticking with the theme of showing new perspectives, a movie called Indigènes or Days of Glory in English, shows the war from the perspective of Muslim men who were fighting for France not only to free France from the Nazis but to free themselves.

Days of Glory starts in Morocco (around 1943-1944) where Muslim men are recruited out of their homes to fight for France. It’s a stark contrast to see men recruited in arid, desert regions championing about for the grape filled pasteurs of France. But the French army was in need of able soldiers and was willing to sign up willing men in Africa with promises of their own liberty as well as France’s independence from Nazi Germany.

A number of men signed up and were rushed through basic training on their way to battle fields in Italy and France. Days of Glory, for the most part, follows four main Arabic soldiers in this “new” French army. Said (Jamel Debbouze) is the pint sized soldier who sees Sgt. Roger Martinez (Bernard Blancan) not only as his superior but guardian; he is also afraid to rise within the military ranks. Abdelkader (Sami Bouajila) is an optimistic, natural leader who works hard but notices that his skin and religious background are holding him back from any sort of formal promotion. Messaoud Souni (Roschdy Zem) fights in the war but thinks longinly about the French woman he is in love with but never hears from. Yassir (Samy Naceri) debates whether it is worth it to fight for the French. The differenes in religion and culture are one thing but he also remembers how the French years earlier, killed some of his friends and family members.

As the fighting rages on, questions of equality arise despite a pretty heavy mix of Arabic and black soldiers. The French soldiers are given preferential treatment when it comes to food, leave time and promotions even though they are greatly outnumbered by the outsiders. Much like the slaves fighting during the civil war, the African’s see a bigger picture beyond just freeing France from Hitler’s Nazis. In that way, the movie reminded me a lot of Glory. The hope that valient fighting efforts will be rewarded at the end of a war with equality is a highly idealized situation but for the desperate sometimes it is all they have to hold on to.

The war scenes themselves are very convincing but nothing new. There are two major scenes, one towards the beginning that shows a significant battle between the two armies, and one at the end which is more like a cowboy gun slinging battle in a small Alsace village where the four main characters battle courageously to hold ground against a German army four times their size. The movie is set in authentic locations which lends a greater credibility to each scene. But beyond the pictures, Days of Glory makes a point of showing the soldiers interactions and how their cultural differences and racism shape the army rather than showing endless battle scenes. There is progress towards acceptance made within the movie but when you compare what is going today (especially in France) its seems like little ground has been made. With the countless riots in 2006 in France, this movie makes you wonder if the sacrifices of war can’t solve these problems, what can?

It’s a new story (to me at least) but the theme is one that I’ve seen before. Nonetheless, Days of Glory is a fairly good modern WWII film; a film type that has recently seen a saturated market. It brings a more European, and for that matter Arabic perspective versus the usual U.S. perspective that we get out of Hollywood so for that its worth picking up at Blockbuster for any war movie buff. Days of Glory was filmed in mainly French but also some Arabic so prepare for subtitles.

6 out of 10 Jackasses
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