Days of Glory (Indigènes) is only the second of the five Oscar nominees for 2006's Best Foreign Picture that I've seen, and while definitely no Pan's Labyrinth, the movie holds its own. The first Algerian film to get nominated in over ten years, Days of Glory follows four Algerian soldiers as they face discrimination during WWII, despite the fact that they fight alongside other soldiers for the liberty of France.
Often compared to Saving Private Ryan, Days of Glory is perhaps a bit more politically motivated film, and I say that in a good way. In modern times, when things seem to be ever more tense when it comes to racial and religious issues, it is good to see a movie tackle the subject in a very discreet and honorable way. Though I cannot comment on specific issues in France as I don't know all the details, what we hear over in the U.S. is constantly increasing tensions between "normal" French and Muslims, most notably the absolutely ridiculous scarf-banning law. Days of Glory goes at that kind of discrimination in the best way possible, of showing how even soldiers who fought against the Nazis faced upward challenges due to their Muslim faith.
The acting all around is pretty good, though some of the actors are certainly better than others. The movie develops some of its four leads more than others, and for the most part, they seemed to develop the wrong ones. In fact, it seems as though the one survivor of it all is the most underdeveloped, but also the one who gives the best performance. The others, while still good, are not commanding.
I can't say to compare this movie to Saving Private Ryan is very fair, because it isn't. Spielberg's war masterpiece was, and is, a masterpiece, and Days of Glory is simply a quality war film. The ending, actually, is quite similar to the ending in Ryan, though not as large in scale (as one might suspect as I'm sure Spielberg had a larger budget to work with). The characters aren't as interesting, and the story is a little slow at times. Yes, I realize I just compared to the two movies, but perhaps one has to, as they are very similar in many ways.
If you're into war films, Days of Glory is certainly one of the better ones out there, but it still doesn't compare to what are considered the best war movies available. A little tightening in a few places and some more character development in others would have helped, but all in all this is a film worth seeing.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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