Film review: 'Days of Glory' genuinely moving

Published: Friday, March 23 2007 12:42 a.m. MDT

DAYS OF GLORY (INDIGENES) — *** — Jamel Debbouze, Samy Naceri, Roschdy Zem; with English subtitles (French and Arabic dialects); rated R (violence, gore, vulgarity, mild profanity, ethnic slurs, nude artwork).

It's a little disheartening to see a World War II movie like "Days of Glory (Indigenes)" close with a present-day sequence.

That sequence is a needless gimmick for a film that isn't very gimmicky, and such a moment has become a cliche after a slew of like-minded wartime dramas have tried to emulate the success of "Saving Private Ryan."

However, a somewhat clunky ending isn't enough to ruin "Days of Glory," which features some good performances and has a slightly different take on a much-filmed subject.

This drama looks at Arab and African men who fought for France during the war, as Algerians join French forces in an attempt to free the country from Nazi occupation. Despite their heroism, the volunteer soldiers encounter racial discrimination and other forms of hostility — from their French counterparts, of all people.

Co-screenwriter/director Rachid Bouchareb is smart to narrow his focus to a handful of characters, four real-life friends (played by French-Arab actors Sami Bouajila, Jamel Debbouze, Samy Naceri and Roschdy Zem).

It's hard not to get sucked in by this story. The format of "Days of Glory" — which recalls the equally effective "Big Red One" — generates some real suspense and genuinely moving drama.

Of the four main characters, Debbouze, as mama's-boy Said, is the most sympathetic. However, veteran French actor Benoit Giros is very watchable as their commanding officer, despite the character's moral deficiencies.

"Days of Glory (Indigenes)" is rated R for strong scenes of war violence (shootings, a stabbing and some vehicular and explosive mayhem), some gore and blood, suggestive talk, use of mild profanity (religiously based) and slurs based on ethnicity and race, and glimpses of nude artwork (paintings and statues). Running time: 118 minutes.


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