Magazine article Screen International

'The Anarchists': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'The Anarchists': Review

Article excerpt

Dir. Elie Wajeman. France, 2015, 101 mins

An intriguing premise, resonant themes and some winning performances from a cast led by Tahar Rahim and Adele Exarchopoulos still fall short of fulfilling the promise suggested by Elie Wajeman's second feature The Anarchists. Set in Paris in 1899, the drama pivots around the conflicted loyalties of an undercover cop who infiltrates the titular revolutionary cell. Cast names - and a trailer spotlighting the film's modest moments of action - should help The Anarchists storm a few barricades in its native France. Elsewhere, expect some niche theatrical and festival play, following the picture's opening-night slot in Cannes Critics' Week.

An orphan of humble origins, Corporal Jean Albertini (Rahim) makes a natural choice for his assigned task: lacking any political affiliations or even any notable characteristics, he's an affable presence who blends into any scene. He also possesses a quiet ruthless streak, callously breaking offwith his girlfriend to clear the decks ready for his new life as a double agent.

Jean has been chosen to target a group of radicals led by Elisée Mayer (Swann Arlaud), who is naturally initially suspicious of the genial fellow who joins the ranks at his workplace, a nail factory. But after Jean proves his mettle when a political meeting is broken up by the police, Elisée takes him home to the handsome apartment owned by a rich sympathiser (Sarah Le Picard). Now Jean becomes the sixth member of a group that is defiantly opposed to the state and any kind of alternative power structures that might take its place.

The drama adds a welcome, if less-than-surprising, fresh element when attraction burgeons between Jean and Elisée's own girlfriend Judith (Exarchopoulos), even as the respectful friendship between the two men deepens. …

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