Algeria’s most recent Oscar nominee comes in the form of this action-packed look at the lives of the indigènes, the North African soldiers recruited to defend France from Nazi Germany. The film focuses specifically on four of these soldiers as they are sent to the front line. As in Saving Private Ryan, a film it is often drawn into comparison with, each of the men has their own personal goals which eventually get forgotten in the brutality of war, and the inherent racism of their fellow combatants.
At times, the image seems to suspend uncertainly, as if the soldiers aren’t sure where to take their lead from. Jamel Debbouze looks no less fresh-faced five years after his role as the naïve Lucien in Amélie. The film is no doubt important given the subject matter (after its release, the French government changed its policy to award indigènes the same pensions as French war veterans), but one can’t help thinking there is a better film to be made of it. Aside from the scene at the theatre, where the North African soldiers leave a ballet performance having not connected with it culturally, the film drains the image of all meaning, instead choosing to literally announce its anti-war stance. At several points, we hear the songs of the soldiers’ respective countries, as if that alone is meant to imbue us with guilt. Days of Glory is notable for its political impact, but the film itself is unlikely to be remembered in ten years.