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Outside the Law

  • Film
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Outside the law.jpg

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars
French-Algerian filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb’s ‘Outside the Law’ is a fierce historical tale with Jean-Pierre Melville’s ‘Army of Shadows’ (1969) written all over it. Even more sweeping and provocative than his ‘Days of Glory’ (2006), which honoured the contribution of North African troops to the liberation of France in 1944, Bouchareb’s latest fictionalises the origins and campaign of Algeria’s National Liberation Front (FLN), the movement that waged a campaign of violence in France and Algeria in the run-up to independence in 1962. It’s a big, bold film defined by a reserved passion, a stately style and strong performances from its three leads.

Bouchareb invents three Algerian brothers who we meet as kids in the 1920s when they’re forcibly evicted from their land. We jump to May 1945 as a conflict breaks out between police and protestors in Sétif, leading to thousands of deaths. In the chaos, we meet Saïd (Jamel Debbouze), Messaoud (Roschdy Zem) and Abdelkader (Sami Bouajila), now adults. Time shifts again: Saïd moves to Paris, living in a shanty town while ducking and diving in Pigalle, Abdelkader is jailed in Algeria and Messaoud fights for the French army in Indochina.

The film fully enters noir-ish Melville territory in the late 1950s, when Abdelkader becomes a leader of the Paris branch of the FLN, Messaoud joins his brother in the movement and less political Saïd graduates from running prostitutes to running a cabaret club. It’s the cold lack of glamour of Melville’s film that Bouchareb co-opts, as Abdelkader becomes a steely operator, prepared to turn on family for the good of the movement.

Bouchareb strives hard to reclaim the work of the FLN as an honourable and necessary political movement, and his referencing of ‘Army of Shadows’ is more than a stylistic choice: it’s a plea for the FLN to be acknowledged as facing choices as vital and conflicted as anyone who fought in the noble ranks of the resistance.
Written by Dave Calhoun

Release Details

  • Duration:137 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Rachid Bouchareb
  • Screenwriter:Rachid Bouchareb
  • Cast:
    • Assaad Bouab
    • Sabrina Seyvecou
    • Jamel Debbouze
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