Free Men: movie review

( Unrated ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

The movie benefits from actor Tahar Rahim's subtle performance, but turns into a low-key thriller towards the end.

By Georges Biard
'Free Men' actor Tahar Rahim gives a subtle, effective performance in the film.

During the Nazi occupation of Paris, Si Kaddour Ben Ghabrit (veteran character actor Michael Lonsdale), rector of Paris's Grand Mosque, provides fake Muslim papers to help Jews escape to North Africa. The police are suspicious and force Younes (Tahar Rahim), an Algerian black marketeer, to spy on the mosque for them. But, when Younes becomes friends with Salim Halali (Mahmoud Shalaby), a Jewish Algerian singer, he finds himself drawn into the Muslim community's resistance efforts.

Director Ismael Ferroukhi's drama is based on historical events –Halali and Ben Ghabrit were real, and Younes is said to be a composite. It centers on Younes's political awakening and crisis of conscience, before turning into a low-key thriller towards the end. The film benefits greatly from Rahim's subtle, effective performance; and it's inevitablyheartening to see Jewish and Muslim Algerians identify themselves in national, not ethnic or religious, terms, while fighting a common enemy. Grade: C+ (Unrated.)

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