E1 Entertainment // 2010 // 109 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 3rd, 2013
Survival. Honor. Sacrifice.
Everything about this release just bellows "generic claptrap," from the tagline-generator-generated-tagline to the action-title-generator-generated-action-title. Djimon Hounsou's in this, too, and he's lately been grinding away in the cursed land of low-budget straight-to-DVD crud.
But upon further inspection, Diane Kruger is in this. And it's French. Credibility rising.
Indeed, Special Forces is a good movie, an actioner built in that tried-and-true mold of the elite force of bad-assess facing overwhelming odds and sacrificing themselves for the greater good. It's also based on a true story, so there's that.
The narrative isn't complicated. In Afghanistan, a war correspondent (Kruger) is snatched up by the Taliban and held hostage. A beheading is on the way, and the French government won't stand for it. Through other forces have begin clearing out of the country, there's still a detachment of French Special Forces deployed. As they delve deep into the heart of Taliban-controlled country, they find themselves constantly under fire and pushed into the deepest, harshest landscapes that war-torn Afghanistan has to offer.
I'm a patsy for these kinds of movies. If you got yourself a detachment of dudes who are well-trained in the lethal arts matched up against waves and waves of bullet sponges, there's not a whole lot more you're going to need to do to get me wired. Add in a noble humanitarian mission objective and have the bad guys being scummy Taliban? I'm sold.
My cheap date proclivities have been rewarded. Special Forces works, delivering a series of legit military thrills, packaged in a storyline that hits enough emotional beats to keep the action contextualized and grounded. This last bit is key and why the film ends up being successful. I've sat through plenty of standard-issue shoot'em-ups, with a bunch of lugs just throwing bullets at each other willy-nilly and rarely have they felt like anything more engrossing than watching your little brother play Duck Hunt for 90 minutes. These movies need stakes, and Special Forces has them.
The turning point comes when our good-guy squad is nearly out of the clear, but an Afghan village is placed in the crosshairs of the Taliban. That's when An Important Choice needs to be made and Everyone Might Not Make It Out Alive. Bad for them. Good for us! Because that leads into a harrowing final act packed with raw man-against-nature endurance runs and Taliban douchebags getting their asses ventilated. And everyone speaking in French just adds more credibility.
Solid DVD from E1, sporting a clean 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks (French and English dubbed, but steer clear of the latter). Extras: deleted scenes and a featurette on the real Special Forces guys.
Not Guilty. Viva la Hounsou!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes