April 22nd 1988 and French military negotiator Capitaine Philippe Legorjus (Mathieu Kassovitz) is awoken in the early hours to be informed there is a crisis developing in the French colony of New Caledonia. It seems a group of independence-seeking gunmen have stormed a police station there and taken hostages into the jungle where they have holed up in and around a cave that is very difficult for the police to get to. Legorjus's mission? To secure the hostages' freedom and if possible bring the rebels to justice. So it is that he and his troops of the GIGN board a plane for a thirty hour flight to the South Pacific...
Director, co-writer and star of Rebellion, or L'ordre et la morale as it was known in French, Mathieu Kassovitz was most dismayed when his movie flopped in his native country, and wasn't even given a boost by being nominated for any Césars other than Best Adapted Screenplay, which it lost. He felt he wasn't being appreciated, and that his work here was neglected: even in the arthouse markets abroad it merely limped out in a limited release, and didn't exactly set the box office alight, although among those who did catch it there was a movement that Kassovitz was correct and Rebellion should really have been offered a better deal than it was with moviegoers.
However, not everyone of that small but hardy band was quite so vocal in singing its praises, and on viewing it you could see why as it may have been politically provocative and feature a countdown to inevitable violence on substantial scale, not to mention the essential injustice of the situation, but something about the film resolutely refused to take off and fly as it remained strangely ungripping from start to finish. It might have played better in France where the events would be fresher in the memory, but for an audience for whom this was not as familiar to begin the story from the point where the chaos was over and many of the rebels were dead constituted a fatal lack of suspense.
Particularly when we saw one of those dying was the leader of the protest, Alphonse Dianou (charismatically played by Iabe Lapacas), who we would go on to see being negotiated with by Legorjus, so if you already were well aware of how this would turn out, that was very badly for the rebels, what was the point in watching the whole of the movie? You could simply look up the details online should you be intrigued, because for all the echoes of The Battle of Algiers Kassovitz was apparently making allusions to, this steadfastly stayed dry and unexciting. If you were so inclined you could try to get involved with the politics, as this crisis occurred just as the French elections were being held, and was used as a political football by both sides.
Kassovitz certainly regarded this as a crucial element of the debate, and his sympathies were blatantly with the rebels, not agreeing with their designation as terrorists by the French authorities and doing his best to humanise them at every opportunity as his character does the right thing by keeping talking with them to bring the emergency to a peaceful end. He didn't play down the fact that lives had been taken by these men, but he tried to be reasonable and depict them as caught up in a web of repression which could be another motive for the potential audience not supporting the movie as it was not what they wanted to hear in the current climate. It was hard to argue Kassovitz's heart was not in the right place when he pointed out through his Legorjus character that any amount of talk was preferable to someone else dying, but we were meant to be outraged when the authorities decided against such action and sent in the troops to effectively execute as many rebels as they could. You could see what he was getting at, but it didn't make for entertainment. Music by Klaus Badelt.
French writer, director and actor. As writer and director, he made his biggest impact with electrifying urban drama La Haine. Assassin(s) followed, a longer version of one of his short films, then he moved into the thriller/horror genre with The Crimson Rivers and Gothika, sci-fi with the doomed Babylon A.D and real life drama in Rebellion. As an actor, he's best known for being the "hero" in A Self-Made Hero and as the heroine's romantic interest in Amelie.