Every time I watch a war movie based on true events, like The Siege of Jadotville is, I get this uneasy feeling in my stomach. In the last twenty years, we’ve seen several great movies dealing with modern battles. Starting with the one that started the trend, Black Hawk Down. This one, however, feels more personal and subdued, focused on a forgotten battle from the sixties. It follows the usual formula: get to know the boys, set the stage, and then escalate. We don’t have to wait long for the action to kick-off and at the thirty-minute mark, bullets start flying. From that moment on, the overwhelming feeling of suspense takes a hold of you. And it doesn’t let go ’till the end. Parallel with the action we’re following the inept efforts to diplomatically defuse the situation.
Unlike most of the other war movies, in The Siege of Jadotville, we’re following a group of UN troops trying to prevent a war in Congo. The soldiers come from Ireland, specifically selected because their country wasn’t an invading force in any of the wars. This makes you empathize more with the guys who’re just trying to keep the peace. The cast was phenomenal, confidently led by charismatic Jamie Dornan. This the second war movie he shot the same year, the first one being the gripping masterpiece Anthropoid. Mark Strong, Mikael Persbrandt, and Michael McElhatton were also all good, adding more familiarity and experience to the mix. Too bad we didn’t see more of Guillaume Canet as Rene Faulques, the mercenary on the opposite side of the siege. Rene is this larger-than-life figure with a rich military career.
Commandant Pat Quinlan and the rest of his unit are enjoying their night out in a local pub in Ireland. Tomorrow, they’ll be traveling to Congo, a country torn by conflict and on a brink of civil war. None of them have seen combat and are hoping that this will be just another boring mission. Once deployed to the mining town of Jadotville, they realize the situation is not that good. And that it can escalate at any moment.
Set on the African continent, The Siege of Jadotville features this exotic and sun-scorched vibe. And while we’re following the “good guys”, in the background you see the same imperialist bullshit that’s going still going on. Especially the role of Belgium and the atrocities they’ve committed in Congo. Today, various companies are mining cobalt and still exploiting the local population. This is the backdrop that wasn’t lost on the filmmakers of this movie. Another thing that I just loved was the lack of melodrama. There are no prolonged scenes and emotional milking here, just straightforward storytelling. This does take away a bit from the suspense but that’s a trade I’m always willing to make. Moreover, it makes the movie easier to watch and follow. If you want to know more about this whole thing check out this Time article. Plus the obligatory Wikipedia Siege of Jadotville page.
Finally, if you’re looking for similar movies I recommend you check out: The Outpost, 13 Hours, 12 Strong and Lone Survivor. And I can’t help myself mentioning just how enjoyed seeing guns from the sixties in action. We either get the WWII or modern guns, and here we have the opportunity to see Bren LMGs, Carl Gustav SMGs and water-cooled Vickers guns.
Director: Richie Smyth
Writers: Kevin Brodbin, Declan Power
Cast: Jamie Dornan, Mark Strong, Danny Sapani, Mikael Persbrandt, Michael McElhatton, Guillaume Canet, Fionn O’Shea, Sam Keeley
Fun Facts: Conor Quinlan, who plays P.J. in the movie, is the real-life grandson of Commandant Pat Quinlan, one of the main heroic characters in the movie.