Days of Glory
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this subtitled French World War II drama deals with mature subject matter and has combat action scenes that are especially brutal (dismembered, bloody, burning, and exploding bodies). The focus on the French Caucasian troops' racism toward their Muslim fellows leads to tension and fights. A Muslim soldier and a white woman embrace and kiss (and she appears in a slip). Cigarette smoking, some drinking, and plenty of subtitled swearing and other language ("f--k," "s--t," and some arguments involving epithets like "wog").
What's the story?
DAYS OF GLORY follows the experiences of a group of Algerian Arab soldiers enlisted into the French army during World War II. (Through the course of the film, they go on multiple missions that cross years and continents.) Sent to training camp are Saïd (Jamel Debbouze), Yassir (Samy Nacéri) and his younger brother, Larbi (Assad Bouab), and Abdelkader (Sami Bouajila), who has already earned the rank of corporal and believes that \"The army means equality.\" The first battle is especially brutal and a horrified Saïd is saved by Sergeant Martinez (Bernard Blancan), who makes him his personal assistant. Saïd comes to realize that his position comes with prejudice and exploitation. When the men are dispatched to France, Martinez and Abdelkader argue over racist divisions of food onboard the ship. The Muslims are at once necessary for the French war effort and a threat, since they refuse to submit to injustice beyond the usual inequities of military ranking. When soldier Messaoud (Roschdy Zem) meets the beautiful Margueritte (Mélanie Laurent), he is further convinced that equality is possible: She's white and in love with him.
Is it any good?
Alternately a rousing war picture and a somber mediation on the lingering effects of racism, Days of Glory was a 2007 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film and was produced in part to encourage the French government to reimburse the pensions of all North African soldiers who fought for France in World War II.
While the war brings on the soldiers' optimism, it is, of course, also terrible and traumatic. Depicted in breathtaking long shots (bodies like dots against desert landscapes; shadowy figures making their way quietly through snowy woods) and harrowing close-ups (faces frozen in pain or anguish), the Arab soldiers struggle with their loyalties (at one point, they're solicited by Nazi leaflets inviting them to "cross over" to a nation that will welcome them as brothers). As each man comes to terms with his limits and hopes, the film never loses sight of the broad context with which they must all contend.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the soldiers' different perspectives and assumptions. How does the movie show the Muslims' take on the war? Their white commanding officers'? Their fellow soldiers' (who range from black Africans to white Europeans)? How is this movie's perspective on World War II different from American films like Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List? How does this movie simultaneously show the soldiers' honor and courage and challenge the idea that they'll find "glory" in war?