ACTOR-director-writer Mathieu Kassovitz has many strings to his bow – consistency isn’t one of them. Despite the critical and commercial success of his debut La Haine, the response to his subsequent efforts has been a resounding “bof!” Halle Berry and Penelope Cruz couldn’t save Gothika from perforated plotting and bad dialogue. Babylon AD – in which Kassovitz stars alongside Vin Diesel “somewhere in the near future” – was even worse than it sounds.
He returns with the deadly serious Rebellion, a 136 minute epic that reconstructs in painstaking detail the army’s brutal crushing of a separatist uprising in the French colony of New Caledonia. When four members of the Gendarmerie are taken hostage, a negotiating team led by Phillippe Legorjus (Kassovitz) is called in from Paris. Arriving in the Pacific Island, it is clear the separatists are not the fearsome savages the French media has presented them as. When the negotiating team beg the authorities for more time they come up against a political and administrative brick wall. The politicians have an eye on the next election, and the welfare of a group of islanders 5,000 miles away is a long way down on their list of priorities.
The windswept Pacific landscape has a similar feel to Apocalypse Now. There are palm trees and vast expanses of ocean, but the colour palette is greyish. The muted, washed out tones hint that a storm is brewing. Rebellion creeps toward its inevitable bloodbath with menacing slowness. Scrupulously researched and understatedly acted, this feels more like a legal argument than a war film. Still, it’s engrossing stuff and despite the slow pacing it wears its run-time lightly.