In Giovanni Aloi‘s feature directorial debut ‘The Third War‘ aka ‘La Troisième Guerre‘, which was most recently nominated for the Venice Horizons Award at Venice Film Festival, the fresh out of basic training, Leo lands his first assignment: a surveillance operation that sees him roaming the streets of Paris with nothing to do but remain alert for potential threats. Given the task of securing the borders of a massive anti-government demonstration, Leo finds himself plunged into the heart of a raging crowd. All the pressure and impotent fury that has built up over weeks is about to explode.

Leo (Anthony Bajon – ‘Teddy‘) patrols the streets of Paris with fellow soldier Hicham (Karim Leklou – ‘The World Is Yours‘), who’s always bragging about his time in Mali when trying to impress Leo, and their sergeant Coline (Leïla Bekhti – ‘The Eddy‘), who seems to be dealing with her own share of private issues when not looking after her squad. The endless shifts take our trio to all corners of Paris, where they keep an eye out for suspicious behaviour and possibly dangerous packages. After the terrorist attacks a couple of years ago in France, the army hasn’t left the streets, making sure the people of France stay safe. ‘The Third War‘ feels rather topical with what’s happening all over the world with police brutality and the BLM-movement. When the soldiers then also go head to head with a couple of police officers who think they have everything under control, the difference between the two kinds of law enforcement couldn’t be more clearer.

Aloi’s film plays like a documentary and could easily be one. It’s shot in a way as if we’re part of the squad walking down the streets, making Parisians feel uncomfortable while soldiers get triggered by the smallest things. It’s meant to lend a sense of realism to the film, and it works, as does most everything in the movie. The trigger-happy factor the blue forces these days suffer from aren’t an unknown effect to these soldiers, who like to spend their spare time playing games and talk shit about women they’ve had sex with or the imaginary relationship between their superiors. Especially when Leo, who clearly comes from a broken family, doesn’t want to go back home, starts disobeying orders. When everything looks like war, isn’t Leo entitled to behave like a soldier?

Writer Dominique Baumard (‘Roulez Jeunesse‘) and co-writer Aloi manage to overcome stereotypical army-storylines mainly thanks to the great chemistry between the actors, and the way they are able to build tension. It’s not all soldier-at-work we get to see. After an incident on the street, Leo finds a phone that belongs to someone the police had been following for a while. He tries to connect with a woman that’s been calling the phone, which could jeopardize his career in the army and his fellow team members by opening up to this stranger. This gives the movie an almost unbearable tension near the end, as we, more so than Leo, wonder and worry about what’s happening in the crowd of a massive demonstration that could explode at any given moment.

The chemistry is stronger than the story, because Bajon, Bekhti and Leklou are just so damn good. It’s not about being a soldier in this day and age, but more about the experience that changes an individual so drastically they start to lose control. ‘The Third War‘ is one of the best army-films made in years, taking the action and drama to the more relatable madness of a metropolitan area.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

FIFF2020 Review – ‘La Troisième Guerre’

Reviewed online (screener provided by publicist), October 5, 2020. Rating: TBC. Running time: 92 min.

PRODUCTION: A Capricci Films production in association with Wild Bunch International. Producer: Thierry Lounas.

CREW: Director: Giovanni Aloi. Screenplay: Dominique Baumard, Giovanni Aloi. Editing: Rémi Langlade. Cinematography: Martin Rit.

WITH: Anthony Bajon, Karim Leklou, Leïla Bekhti, Arthur Verret, Jonas Dinal, Raphaël Quenard, Esdras Registe, Igor Kovalsky, Maxime Cailliau, Jules Dousset.

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