Essential plot rundown: A group of monks are threatened by increasing terrorist violence. This is based on true events that happened in 1996 in Algeria. And this movie was not what I was expecting.
When I heard that it was about a group of monks being captured, I was expecting an intense drama. I thought that the first half of the film would slowly build up and then they would be captured, leaving the second half of the movie to deal with the interaction between the monks and terrorists.
But, that is not at all what this movie is about. It starts off just showing the daily lives of these men. Then, after some people get killed, the rest of the movie basically follows the monks as they decide if they should leave and save themselves or stay and help those in need, while risking death. They actually don't get captured til the very end.
This movie moved too slow for my liking (especially for being 2 hours long). And with it's longer running time, I never really felt that I got to know any of the monks. There are 8 of them, but I only get to spend time with three. I didn't think that there was enough character development to make up for the lack of action.
There were also a few things/people that I didn't understand. Wait, now who is that guy? What is that helicopter doing? One thing that I don't like about watching these historical type movies is that I'm ignorant when it comes to history, so I have a hard time following. I'm sure that if I was more familiar with the actual events that happened, the movie would have made more sense.
Like I said, the majority of this film follows the monks as they decide to stay or flee. And, for the majority of the film, I did the same thing. I kept thinking What would I do? Would I stay or go? I feel like I should stay and stand up for what I believe. But, then again, me getting killed doesn't really help anybody. But, unlike the monks, I was unable to make a decision.
My favorite part of the movie occurs at the end. The head monk, Christian (played by Lambert Wilson) has a voice over monologue. (I don't if it's from a letter, journal or what, but it's in the movie). In part of it he says,
"My death, of course, will quickly vindicate those who call me naïve or idealistic, but they must know that I will be freed of a burning curiosity and, God willing, will immerse my gaze in the Father's and contemplate with him his children of Islam as he sees them."
I just thought it was a really interesting thing to say. It really defines the character and what he believes in. I liked the mental image of Christian, sitting with God, talking about Muslims. But, then again I am extremely fascinating by religion in all its forms.
Overall, it's not a bad movie (it did win Grand Prix at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival) it's not my cup of tea. That may have been to what I was expecting. Oh, and it does have a scene featuring some music from "Swan Lake", so that was kind of cool.
But that's just my opinion...