Review: Army of Shadows (1969)

Lino Ventura and Simone Signoret star in this taut thriller about French Resistance fighters in Marseilles during one winter early in WWII.

Held over for a third week at the Music Box Theatre, those of you in the Chicago area have another chance to see this outstanding French film, which is receiving its U.S. premiere seventeen years after it was produced. Words like “epic” and “masterpiece” get bantered about a lot when critics talk about Army of Shadows, and rightly so.

A small band of operatives, led by Ventura, carry out all manner of missions, from smuggling to dispatching traitors. Inevitably, members are snatched up by the Nazis and their lack of a cyanide tablet puts the entire group in jeopardy.

Director Jean-Pierre Melville (Bob le Flambeur) uses a muted color palette which perfectly conveys the bleakness of life under Nazi occupation. It also gives the film an air of Noir, with characters clad in trench coats and fedoras, talking in hushed, matter-of-fact tones about the dangerous work that needs to be done. [**** 1/2 out of 5]

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