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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars French Special Forces!!!!
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...
Published 22 months ago by Ed Webb

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some `Special' Production Value & Excellent Performances Battle the Clichés In SPECIAL FORCES
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...
Published 18 months ago by E. Lee Zimmerman


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some `Special' Production Value & Excellent Performances Battle the Clichés In SPECIAL FORCES, February 26, 2013
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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars French Special Forces!!!!, October 19, 2012
By 
Ed Webb (Elizabethtown, KY United States) - See all my reviews
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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mind-numbingly dull, October 14, 2012
This review is from: Special Forces [Region 2] (DVD)
An article is written by a French journalist named Elsa (Diane Kruger) with the intention of exposing the Pakistani warlord named Zaief (Raz Degan) for what he really is. Seeking retribution for being called "the butcher of Kabul," Zaief captures Elsa and her friend Amen (Mehdi Nebbou) and holds them both hostage. A French Special Forces team lead by Kovax (Djimon Hounsou) is sent in to rescue them, but when a stray bullet severs their only means of communication they find themselves journeying back to Afghanistan on foot.

The French war adventure film opens with what is quite possibly the most ridiculous music to try and accompany soldiers or a war. There are helicopters flying in the air, soldiers scouting out the landscape, and this extremely serious tone but it doesn't feel sincere because Big Audio Dynamite is blaring in the background. It just doesn't seem to fit the tone of the film at all. In the meantime, the rest of the score is completely generic. There's this guitar heavy piece that's used literally every five minutes or so. If the inadequate music wasn't enough, the film is edited like a bad music video with constant quick cuts, flashes of light, and even slow motion.

The first half of the film is nearly unbearable; there's no character development and these really lame attempts at humor. "We need to be set up at the landing site in an hour and a half." "Oh, no time to go shopping then?" It seems like "Special Forces" is just going through the motions at first. It's a rescue mission with no depth, but things begin to turn around once they reach the village. The action picks up and suddenly everyone realizes that, "Oh crap, we should actually be trying to invest in people's emotions here!"

Diane Kruger has the most draining performance. Elsa is put through hell and you can see the toll it takes on her both physically and emotionally. What's unfortunate about her is that she's so stubborn that it completely voids out rational thinking the majority of the time. She is given at least half a dozen signs and told just as often to leave the country, but decides to stay to try and protect her informer Maina (Morjana Alaoui) even though she never sees her after the opening scene. She's also given a gun by Lucas (Denis Menochet) and is told something along the lines of "just in case" and "you'll never know." Even when things go south, she's never seen using it. Instead she's given another gun later, which she also doesn't use. So Elsa can be a successful journalist and gain worldwide attention, but can't use basic logic even though her life in addition to eight others depends on it.

Djimon Hounsou has a really passionate performance, as well. He's so devoted to his mission and his men. Benoit Magimel as Tic-Tac is able to add some awkward charm. Raphael Personnaz is the biggest bad ass. The sniper exchange at the village is just insane. Raz Degan is fairly impressive as Zaief. While the character is pretty flat, it does seem like he does the best he can with what's in front of him. His cold eyes accompanied by his loathsome actions cause him to stand out in a sea of mediocrity.

"Special Forces" is incredibly similar to "Act of Valor" in story and tone. On the positive side, "Special Forces" doesn't feel as force fed as "Act of Valor" and has better, more emotionally charged performances in its second half. It could have been so much more though, especially if the first half of the film was written better and had more depth. You might actually care about the events that unfold in the process. "Special Forces" isn't very special at all. Predictable and run of the mill with terrible music and the most generic editing around, "Special Forces" feels like it lasts the 11 days it chronicles.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Action movies do not come any better!, October 27, 2012
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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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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I am so glad I found this movie..., October 19, 2012
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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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome movie, December 28, 2012
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reconnaissance mission gripping and dramatic, 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
5.0 out of 5 stars this cut diamonds!, February 18, 2013
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic war movie, May 29, 2013
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This review is from: Special Forces [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great movie - don't be afraid of the subtitles, May 29, 2013
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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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Special Forces [Blu-ray]
Special Forces [Blu-ray] by Djimon Hounsou (Blu-ray - 2013)
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