I approached this movie already knowing some of what had happened in Rwanda, and more than the average person. Not through any special connection, merely through the reading of the amazing book which chronicles the horrendous events that occurred and how a small group of UN Soldiers tried to help save the people of Rwanda fighting against both the Army and Rebels in Rwanda as well as the UN and the member Countries themselves who refused to assist.
So from knowing that this film told some of the story from a different viewpoint, from the viewpoint of people of Rwanda, I was intrigued and concerned. Concerned that perhaps the story did not tell enough, or moreso, that it told too much. So I rented it from LOVEFiLM.
MovieIt's fair to say that this movie is harrowing from quite early on, there are some unsettling scenes indeed. It might also be fair to warn you that since I've read the Dallaire book that I'm probably more emotionally charged to this topic than others who do not know what was happening in the country, so some of this review might be slightly affected by that. However, that's a good thing, and you too should read that book as well as seeing the film.
Not only are there very harrowing scenes with unsettling images, but there are also some extremely emotionally charged scenes from both extremes of the spectrum. Scenes such as the trail of bodies across the roads, or realising how detached and uncaring those carrying out the genocide are, all the way to those between Paul Rusesabagina and his wife. Amongst all the evil there are some genuinely tender moments to be found.
Don Cheadle who plays Rusesabagina puts in an amazing performance, perhaps the best of his career, and I say that even putting to the side the subject matter of the film. His wife is played by Sophie Okonedo who performs just as well, giving a strong and wholly believable performance.
Surprisingly Nick Nolte seems to struggle in the role of the UN Colonel who runs in and out of shot continually exasperated and apologetic. He seems physically awkward in most scenes he's in and looks more pathetic than struggling to fight for these people.
At one point he delivers a harsh and overly simplistic speech to Rusesabagina which talks of how the West has abandoned him and carries some harsh and biting words. If I didn't realise that this character was supposed to be Dallaire then I would consider this soldier an uncaring racist at that moment, and this stunning break from character has to be put down to the writing and possibly the editing of that scene. It feels a completely out of character moment for Colonel Oliver.
Yet that seems to be the only moment the writing is let down, throughout the rest of the film it is strong and very real. However, there could have been more made of some of the key moments of the film, such as when Rusesabagina persuades the people in the Hotel to phone everyone they knew of influence and attempt to shame them into doing something. This was an extremely powerful moment when he called his Hotel boss telling him they were all about to be killed, it was an amazingly strong piece of cinema, and something that should have been made more of in the scenes where everyone began to make these calls.
Another part of the story which seemed to be absent was when Oliver is trying to save the people he simply rushed off saying he'll try then appearing later with some solution. This seems to let the UN and the Countries involved very much off the hook as they were as much to blame for the growing genocide as were the armies involved. They simply failed to, refused to, and actively campaigned not to be involved.
The film is powerful, harrowing and extremely shameful. It, as the book did, made me feel ashamed to know that my Country played a part in trying to hide and ignore the ongoing genocide. It's an emotionally charged film that really did affect me, and with two excellent performances from the leads you'll find yourself drawn into the film and feeling for the characters as they too become ashamed with what their countrymen are doing. It's a hard film to watch, but you should.
PicturePresented: Widescreen 16:9 Anamorphic The picture was clear, sharp and bright without any digital problems at all.
AudioPresented: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0 The 5.1 soundtrack was good but not overly strong, after all this film is more a character piece than anything, and with the war happening in the background there is no need to use the spatial 5.1 effects.
ExtrasUnfortunately this version of the DVD did not carry the Audio Commentary or the selected scene commentary of Cheadle of the sale release.
OverallDespite the lack of extras on this DVD the film more than makes up for it with its strength of tale. Well worth watching to even begin to understand what we all ignored, even if the film visits the story on a small scale it still has the same result. Highly recommended.
IMDB UK movie details