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Free Men


Stars: Tahar Rahim, Michael Lonsdale, Christopher Buchholz, Lubna Azabal, Mahmud Shalaby, Marie Berto, Jean-Pierre Becker

Director: Ismael Ferroukhi

This French-Algerian film has echoes of such Hollywood classics as Casablanca and even Algiers hanging about its fringes. When a traitor is shot at the end, you almost expect a Vichy cop to bark out a command to round up the usual suspects.

One of said suspects would certainly be Younes (Rahim), at the start of the narrative a small-time Algerian racketeer making money to send to his family back home in the occupied Paris of 1942. His cousin Ali (Farid Larbi) is in with the Resistance, but Younes doesn't see it as his fight.

Hauled in by the Nazi authorities, he's told he can only continue his nefarious operations if he becomes a spy, joining the local mosque (to which he hardly ever goes), checking the activities of the rector (Lonsdale) and his staff and ferrying back information to the Gestapo - besides fancying local helper Leyla (Azabal).

Younes co-operates to a degree, and the money is useful, but he also meets singer Salim (Shalaby), a Jewish-Algerian under threat of discovery. Needless to say, through one thing and another, Younes soon finds himself dangerously on the other side of the fence.

It's all competently made, and more than adequately shot, with some tense moments towards the climax, as Younes fights to help refugees and evade the clutches of the Germans at the same time. If you like French films, this one's worth renting when it comes out on DVD.

David Quinlan

France 2011. UK Distributor: Artificial Eye. Colour by Eclair.
99 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 20 May 2012