Film Festival Movie Review

Film Review: FAR FROM MEN: A Novel Piece of Work [Tribeca 2015]

Viggo Mortensen Reda Kateb Far From Men

Far From Men (2014) Film Review from the 14th Annual Tribeca Film Festival, a movie directed by David Oelhoffen, starring Viggo Mortensen, Reda Kateb, Djemel Barek, Vincent Martin, Jean-Jerome EspositoAntoine Regent, and Nicolas Giraud.

Adapted from the Albert Camus short story The Guest, Far From Men (AKA Loin des Hommes in French) is a beautifully shot war drama set during the Algerian War for Independence. The multi-talented Viggo Mortensen polishes his French in the role of Algerian native Frenchmen Daru, a schoolteacher who stays isolated from the war living in the mountains. The film takes place in 1954, where the war has already begun. Daru lives a peaceful life teaching Algerian kids to read and write French in order to escape the casualties of war. However, Daru’s quiet existence is cut short when a local policeman brings in an Algerian prisoner named Mohamed (Reda Kateb) and asks him to escort the man to the nearby town where he will stand trial for murdering his cousin.

As a man of principle, Daru first refuses to take Mohamed to his death. Daru is left no choice but to take the prisoner on his way after the official leaves Mohamed behind and his relatives start attacking them in an act of vengeance. The two men start going on a journey through the desert, passing through abandoned villages and experience the war from both sides. The two men get caught in a battle between the rebels and the French forces that show no mercy to prisoners and radicals.

The film is set up like a western, where there are horses, gunfights, and even a saloon surprisingly. Viggo Mortensen is all too familiar with the genre, which shows in his acting ability and brings some richness into his character. Even though the film takes place during the war, Far From Men puts it’s main focus on the journey of these two kindhearted yet different men and the impossible choices they must make in order to survive. Despite everything they go through on their journey, the two men develops a deep bond that will last forever.

The friendship that develops between Daru and Mohamed makes the story tie together as we get to learn more about them and the situations they face. Mohamed is shown as a humble man who refuses his freedom from Daru and prefers to meet his death for noble reasons. Daru doesn’t understand Mohamed’s intentions for giving up, but he slowly starts understanding where Mohamed is coming from. Kateb does an amazing job matching with Mortensen’s performance. Kateb brings in the kind of character who has honor and curiosity with him.

In a film that is heavily casted with French actors, Mortensen does a fine job fitting in and cleverly mastering the language. Despite his star status, Mortensen makes his presence fresh, a quality that’s perfect for those in roles that demand such compassion. His character Daru was born to Spanish parents, who were settlers moving around a lot and were considered outsiders to both the French and the Arabs. Daru becomes defined by the decisions he makes and his views on both sides by being neutral to the cause.

The movie is beautifully shot by Guillaume Deffontaines, where most of the scenes focus on the landscapes of the desert and the mountains. The film does well in showing the extreme weather conditions that happen in the Algerian desert, pitting our two heroes against the harsh terrain just as much as the opposing forces. Director David Oelhoffen makes the western genre work with the setting of the Algerian War, proving that foreign film makers can do westerns if done right.

Far From Men feels like a novel piece of work despite the material that it originated from. Even with the setting of the film and the themes that it entails, Far From Men does work out as a western. There may not be any villains, but the film does profoundly well by focusing on Daru, Mohamed, and the world around them as they know it. Not everyone will be able to keep up with the slow pace and the action that goes on in the movie, but these same traits are what make the film work with people familiar with the genre.

Rating: 8/10

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About the author

Mufsin Mahbub

Mufsin is a freelance writer from New York who has a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism at Long Island University. He has written for publications like HollywoodLife, Clubplanet, and Heavy. He is an avid lover for everything related to TV and film. He has gone to dozens of film screenings, press events, and loves to attend New York Comic Con every year. He gives an honest opinion on every TV show or film that people are going to be talking about.

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