February 11, 2020  (Web Review)

At War

Cinema Libre, 115 min., in French w/English subtitles, not rated, DVD: $24.99, Blu-ray: $29.99

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Stéphane Brizé’s drama about workers protesting the pitiless closure of an auto parts plant in an economically depressed French town by a corporation that is reporting record profits is a social drama in the tradition of Ken Loach and John Sayles. Vincent Lindon stars as Laurent Amédéo, spokesman for 1,100 workers on strike after Perrin Industries reneges on their contract with workers. With no help from the courts or the government, the workers blockade the plant, and occupy the French company headquarters, demanding a meeting with the CEO of the German parent corporation. Brizé casts non-actors in supporting roles and shoots scenes of worker meetings, negotiations with company executives, and protest actions in long takes with a handheld camera positioned in the midst of the action, creating a documentary-like immediacy that adds realism to the drama. Between scenes, viewers see TV news coverage, which leans on the most sensationalistic images and reduces the workers to an enraged mob, which only confirms the worst fears of the workers: the corporations have all the power and the workers are left alone to fight for their rights. The film favors a portrait of the process of the strike action over characters or personal stories but there is effective drama as the solidarity unravels during the long strike and the debate devolves into name calling. A potent work of social commentary that illustrates the increasing powerlessness of individuals and collective action in a world of powerful corporate interests, this is recommended. (S. Axmaker)