Days of Glory – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Director

Rachid Bouchareb

Cast

Jamel Debbouze … Saïd Otmari
Samy Naceri … Yassir
Roschdy Zem … Messaoud Souni
Sami Bouajila … Abdelkader

The Movie

One of the more criminally unknown aspects of the liberation of France in World War II is the involvement of the African soldiers of the French colonies. Almost 2/3 of the men who fought in the Free French Forces were native Algerians, recruited into the effort alongside those who were able to escape Nazi-occupied France. Making a film about it is difficult on the face, as trying to find actors who are ethnically correct is one problem as well as being able to tell the story in a meaningful manner. After a decade of trying to get it produced, Days of Glory hit the art house circuit briefly after being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

Also known as Indigènes, the film follows four young Algerian soldiers as they try to survive in Morocco. All four have different reasons for being there, but by the end the war has become a most vicious learning experience for all of them.

And if it sounds derivative of The Big Red One and Saving Private Ryan, it’d be hard to disagree. Rachid Bouchareb borrows heavily from both of those films, more from the former than the latter, in constructing his own war epic. This is a film about the horrors of war and how it affects them, much like every other postmodern war film, but the main difference that separates it from being another clone of a great American war film is that it tackles head on the discrimination faced by the Algerians from their French commanders; it gives it an interesting dynamic as the men have to deal with the overwhelming racism of the period.

What stands out most about the film is Bouchareb’s use of color and visuals to guide the film. Going from stark black and white visuals, using the modern style washed appearance and then to full color spectrum, he works flawlessly with visuals to enhance the experience. He doesn’t switch constantly, but when the color changes it’s for a purpose. There’s a definite change in atmosphere whenever he does this, and he keeps plot going along with the same sort of crispness.

He’s crafted a war epic that compares favorably to The Big Red One; the four men and the rigors of combat make for the easy comparison but the better one would be in tone. Samuel Fuller’s film has the same sort of intensity and solid action sequences. While the film doesn’t coming close to matching the action scenes of other war films, it doesn’t have to in order to be a great film. The war scenes are intense and realistic, giving the film’s downtime sequences more relevance. Bouchareb doesn’t have to up the bar on war movie violence to make his point; settling for close to Ryan‘s mid-level sequences is good enough..

While Days of Glory doesn’t break any new ground per se, it makes a solid companion piece to an American war film like The Big Red One. And since it didn’t get the ability to earn an audience in theaters, on DVD the film has the opportunity to be viewed by a much more interested audience than ever before.

The Audio

Presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 format, the DVD takes full advantage of the format provided. The subtle parts of the score come through clearly while the audio component comes alive in the war sequences.

The Video

Presented in a widescreen format, the film’s varying color experiences come through vividly and clearly. This isn’t a film of drastic colors, but what is presented comes through clearly and crisply.

The Extras

The Making of Days of Glory is the requisite “making of” feature common to most DVDs nowadays. Subtitled for non-French speakers, it was a labor of love for Bouchareb because it took him well over a decade to get the film made because of the lack of any famous Arab actors in France to play the Algerians. It’s interesting to see the main cast in Algeria, visiting with veterans from that era in order to better understand their characters and the era. Several of the main actors had ancestors who fought in the Algerian effort to liberate France, and yet it took almost two years to secure the financing to make the film once everyone was on board due to the nature of the subject and had to be shot in Morocco to simulate the conditions of the war. This is a really deep look at the film, as the principles of the cast and the director talk about everything that went into making the film and a lot of the themes involved in the film itself.

“A Colonial Friend” is a short film by Bouchareb that is subtitled in English for those who are not fluent in French. Crudely animated to some extent – the short looks more like a really good chalk sketch than animation – this piece is intriguing on a certain level. There’s no dialogue, and it is in black and white, giving it a stylized look that’s unique. Following the path of a conscripted soldier from Senegal through the war and back home again, it’s an interesting piece to say the least and an early blueprint as to what Bouchareb wanted to do with Days of Glory cinematically.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Days of Glory
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

9.5
THE VIDEO

9.0
THE AUDIO

9.0
THE EXTRAS

7.0
REPLAY VALUE

8.5
OVERALL
8.5
(NOT AN AVERAGE)