At War (En Guerre)
Vincent Lindon, Mélanie Rover, Jacques Borderie, David Rey, Olivier Lemaire
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…an explosive account of the full extent workers are pushed to keep their jobs and lives together.
At War is an explosive account of the full extent workers are pushed to keep their jobs and lives together. Brizé and Lindon reunite after 2015’s The Measure of a Man, to explore similar territory of a proud working-class driven to take action by threats to their jobs and security.
Given the recent political events in France with the ‘gilet jaune’ (yellow vests) movement, any film covering sustained protest and civil unrest is bound to be viewed in light of contemporary news. This certainly does not harm Brizé’s vérité influenced film looking at a 1,100 strong workforce facing the prospect of redundancies following the forced shutdown of their factory. Despite personal financial loss and an uncertain future, the workers decide to fight the decision in any way they can.
Led by the fiercely committed Laurent Amédéo (Vincent Lindon), the group do their best to remain solid and strong in the face of hardships, in-fighting and corporate manoeuvring. The tension of the powder-keg situation is built up both by the excellent performances and through video footage and staged news reports.
The film expertly showcases how a group with a shared belief driven by a sense of injustice – it is continually pointed out that the factory was in fact performing well – will do anything when passionately fired up by what it perceives as malicious wrongdoing.
At certain points the main plot of the film feels overstretched, but it makes up for this with the pace picking up again in the final third. Frequently eye-catching and captivating when the emotional intensity really hits home, the film acts as a cri de coeur and rallying call for dispossessed working people everywhere. Examining the human cost of industrial and commercial upheaval, the film looks at people who are more than mere statistics or points on a spreadsheet’s profit margin.
The documentary style takes the audience straight to the heart of the action in a variety of locations, from the factory floor right up to an impassioned stand-off with the CEO of the factory’s ultimate owners. There is never any doubt that Laurent and his colleagues are being exploited by the profit-chasing company. The real question is how long they can continue to strike, and what will the fall-out be?
A provocative and powerful state of the nation address, At War delivers the stark message of a man and a movement that will not meekly step down.