Special Forces [Blu-ray]
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Good military thrillers are hard-to-find, and that's probably because the field of cinema has long cultivated lesser soldier pictures masquerading as something bigger or grander than what they truly are. For example, a reviewer for the Hollywood Reporter draws a light comparison to the Rambo films ("a body count that rivals any of the Rambo films"), and, to be honest, I think that does a disservice to SPECIAL FORCES as well as it does Rambo. Rambo is clearly a fictional creation; sure, he's entertaining and a crowd-pleaser, but the men who make up true-life Special Forces teams have very little in common with and how Rambo goes about his job. Rambo is bigger-than-life. He's over-the-top. Real soldiers lie low much of the time, and they only rush into combat when either ordered or find it absolutely necessary.

It's a fine-line distinction, but it's one that should be made when discussing competent military thrillers like SPECIAL FORCES.

(NOTE: The following review may contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and character. If you're the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I'd encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you're accepting of a few modest hints at `things to come,' then read on ...)

Elsa Casanova (played by the lovely Diane Kruger) is a war correspondent caught behind enemy lines in Afghanistan when she's taken hostage over some very unflattering pieces involving a local Taliban chieftain. Her captors take her deep into their Pakistan-stronghold, and the French call in a squad of Special Forces led by Kovax (Djimon Hounsou) to rescue her. A botched helicopter extraction leaves her and the soldiers with only one grim option: to brave this wild frontier on foot, trek across the mountains, and hope for friendly aide in Afghanistan!

To its credit, SPECIAL FORCES is a smartly made military thriller. There's a political undercurrent, as well, that for the most part supports the primary plot of good soldiers doing a dirty job, but the politics of the film put so much of the story in jeopardy. For example, the Taliban chieftain would appear to be exactly what the Taliban would want from a leader (he's ruthless, forcing Elsa to watch helplessly while they strangle a man to death in front of her), but we quickly learn that the man lacks the respect of the local Taliban elders. There's an interesting parallel running through the motion picture about how the press apparently doesn't respect the French government or its military, but, in the end, we pretty much find out that it's all been done for the sake of `character development.' Unfortunately, there's no way to make sense of what director Stephane Rybojad was trying to saw about the world and these people, but I've no doubt Stephane thought it was all pretty high-brow.

Those quibbles aside, a large portion of the rest of SPECIAL FORCES is extremely well shot, expertly choreographed, and quite thrilling. The rescue goes mostly textbook, but the extraction leaves these folks stranded behind enemy lines and needing to salvage a botched operation. As soldiers would, they comprise their own `game plan,' which leads to some solid action for fans of this genre. The last quarter (or so) of the film veers into some pretty dire circumstances for all involved, and, while I'd no doubt this is the story Rybojad wanted to tell, it's all pretty downright depressing for my tastes. Kudos for opting for realism, but, if it's realism you want, then I'd seriously question the logic of the skinny blonde waif with no body fat lasting as long as she did.

SPECIAL FORCES is produced by Easy Company, Studio Canal, Canal+, TPS Star, Banque Postale Image 4, A Plus Image 2, and Sofica Manon. DVD distribution is being handled through Entertainment One (E One). For those who might be wondering, this is `technically' listed as a French-language film which is a bit of a misnomer: yes, there's a wealth of French spoken in there, but there's an awful lot of English, as well. There is an English-dubbing track (2.0 only) available, if you don't want any French; I watched it in French with sub-titles, and I was surprised how much English there was. As for the technical specifications, it looks and sounds magnificent - very clear and crisp images, excellent sound mix, and there's some wonderful John-Ford-esque vistas throughout the film. As for the special features, there's a handful of deleted scenes (nothing grand) and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it three minutes feature on a real-life Special Forces soldier who participated briefly as a character in the film. (My press materials indicates that the Blu-ray release includes an additional `making of' featurette.)

RECOMMENDED. Look, I love my patriotism just as much as the next patriot, but SPECIAL FORCES ain't no recruiting video for the French that's for sure. Also, it ain't any work any miracles for Pakistan's tourism business. It's a well-made, well-constructed military/political thriller for about 80% of the time, which ain't bad. However, its politics are all over the map (Are the Taliban bad guys? Are they good guys? Are they just misunderstood? Or is it the press who are our bad guys?), and the lack of a coherent message (not the story, which is all well and good) slows the picture down a bit. It's full of good performances and some very curious editing (way too many meaningless dissolves), but the script could've used a rescue mission itself in the last 30 minutes.

In the interests of fairness, I'm pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Entertainment One (E One) provided me with a DVD screener copy of SPECIAL FORCES for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2012
So cool to see the Special Forces of other countries in a movie. It's usually just the special units of the US and many times a little hard to believe. Great action scenes and realistic for today as far as I know. Not that I've seen action in a few years. As far as crossing frozen mountains with no specialized gear...........it's a movie. If I'd wanted a mountain climbing documentary I'd have watched one. I wanted action and drama.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2012
Talk about a surprise. Amazing movie!!! Cinematography and acting, all top notch. Ok, I admit...the storyline has sort of been done before but, how could anybody bash a movie that is ultimately meant to honor fallen soldiers? Bottom line - you can't (or at the very least, show respect). Thank You.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2012
I have not seen any movies of the French military's role until this movie. It is about a rescue mission by the French Special Forces. I found the story line very good in pulling in the (at least) two different ways the Muslim faith is lived among the Muslim community, the way women are treated in the Muslim community and the great courage and warrior training that the French Special Forces live by. Great line of action to see along with a great amount of things to think about in the crisis between the Muslim community of Pakistan and the Western community of heros just as fervent about how to live life as the Muslim communities' views.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2012
I am a combat veteran and there are few movies that I can watch due to my PTSD. However, this one was awesome. Even though it is about French special ops, I have a very warm spot in my heart for all spec ops people. I thought this really gave a realistic portrayal of what it is like. The charachters were human and not just made to look like supermen. This movie will make you laugh and cry and think. I was kinda leary at first so I didn't get my hopes up but it was a very surprising film. They did not pull any punches. I got goosebumps during several scenes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2013
It's odd, the opening sequence opens with Big Audio Dynamite singing E=MC and a stunning set of scenes showing just how badass these French Special Operations soldiers are. Then the story is quickly set with the story line and the subsequent daring commando raid to rescue her.

From there, it's a study of how things can go wrong and how something can turn from bad to worse in the flip of a dime. And from there to a story of survival on the run. Along the way we get to learn more about the soldiers that are fighting and our main heroine Elsa, the writer/journalist.

While some might say that this is just another Rambo type movie I would have to say that they are wrong. This is a movie that is a story about survival and how teamwork can get you through, much like how these Special Operations commandos work.

Special Force, IMHO, is best watched in French with the English subtitles rather than with the dubbed in English.

You will enjoy this movie if you're looking for a blend of action, story line and drama.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2014
This is a French movie with English subtitles where needed, as some of it is in English. It's a good story about a reporter who gets abducted in Afghanistan and the French Special Forces men who come to try and save her life. It is a really good story and covers so much more than just the reporter being abducted. These men who risk their lives for others are the bravest of the brave and yet they have their own lives back home just like everyone else. No matter what country Special Forces military come from, you have to love them and be grateful to them for the sacrifices they make for the rest of the world. I think you will enjoy this movie if you enjoy good acting on everyone's part, and a good story line to boot.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2013
By Jim Clark, publisher, Lee County Courier, Tupelo, Mississippi

There are no actors you will likely recognize in Special Forces. That shouldn’t keep you from watching this mesmerizing film.
It is a French film but the voices English, no subtitles.
A French journalist, Elsa (Diane Kruger) is working on a story about Maina, a woman sold to a man when she was the child, Taliban leader Ahmed Zaief.
Taliban are nortorius for their treatment of women. Women should not appear in the streets without a blood relative and without wearing a Burqa. Women must not speak loudly in public as no stranger should hear a woman's voice. The list goes on and on.
So when Zaief captures Elsa, he finds he’s met a woman who will not bow to him. He orders her killed, but with knife to throat, Elsa taunts her captor, saying he’s not man enough to watch her being killed. He blinks and lets her live.
He is chastised by those above him for not killing the woman.
In the mean time, French special forces perform a bold reconnassance mission, freeing Elsa and her fellow journalist.
Now Zaief is forced to find and kill all to prove himself.
Set against the harsh background of Afghanistan this small sleeper film is gripping and dramatic, more so than most of its American counterparts.
The film which is based on a true story, shows not only the precise nature of the French Special Forces but also the harsh brutality of Taliban fighters.
This is a journey you will not soon forget.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2013
we are a society mesmerized by elite forces and have only a pedestrian understanding of what it means to make such sacrifices in life. there is a small percent of rambo, but so much more endurence and strength of character required to live in such a world and this movie captures exactly that. i will not overwatch this one so i can savor and recreate the intensity and drama that is so powerfully portrade.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2013
There was actually a lot of English in the movie, so don't let the subtitles scare you. I don't speak French and I enjoyed the film a lot. I especially liked the realistic military tactics employed by the team and the realistic misfortunes that befell them.
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