It’s the 1960s and the height of the Algerian War. France is in a struggle to maintain a commanding hold of the country from its natives and they’ve just lost a plane with highly sensitive data on-board. A squad of soldiers is dispatched on a rescue and retrieve mission, but they encounter a little more than they’d bargained for.
Most western audiences are familiar with the Djinn (genies) as supernatural granters of wishes. The story of Aladdin popularized them as primarily a good thing (if not mischievous at times). The “reality” is a little more varied than that. According to the Qur’an, these creatures can be good or evil. This is because they were created (along with humans and angels) with free will so, they can choose to be benevolent or malevolent. Satan is an apparent example of an evil Djinn.
Djinn are physically made from smoke and exist on a slightly different plane of existence. They are generally hidden from humans and they themselves cannot often see or interact with humans. There are several species of Djinn, some with extraordinary powers (the classic representation of the genie) whereas others are lowly creatures that resemble interestingly enough, zombies.
This film combines traits from the various descriptions of these creatures and the result are beings who’s ultimate goals are hard to guess at the outset.
Those Crazy French…
For a film about soldiers fighting off a horde of these mystic creatures, it’s a lot slower than most audience members will be expecting. This stems from the fact that most humans are completely unaware of their existence so, the main plot involves the Djinn manipulating the soldiers through their dreams or through hallucinations into turning on each other. A real pity really considering this could have made for a great guns vs magic actioner.
An even bigger shame is that action performers such as District B13‘s Cyril Raffaelli were cast in the role of one of the soldiers. He never once gets to do some worthwhile action. At least nothing worthy of his talent. Kind of a sad fact for me as he was part of the reason I’d been angling to see this film in the first place. Of all the films for him to choose to take a dramatic turn, this should not have been it.
In fact, that’s kind of the whole crux of the problem with this film. From the casting to the premise, none of it really lives up to the potential. It’s a film about an elite group of fighters sent into the desert on a special mission. Except when the crap hits the fan, our badass soldiers can’t quite hold it together. It’s also a film about all powerful beasties that somehow can’t directly manipulate reality other than through misdirection and illusion. Only two characters in the entire film can actually see these beings, and neither has guts enough to take the creatures on.
So, in the end the film fails to really muster enough to keep most viewers interested. The movie is not without its wins, but not enough of them to matter. If you can stomach the slow pace and lower your expectations, you might still enjoy this. The ending is a nice touch and the creature designs are kinda cool (and creepy). Otherwise, skip this one.
B+ grade for Creepy creature designs and animation
C+ grade for narrative
C- grade for action
Overall this gets a C grade. Cleanse your pallet by re-watching the Wishmaster series.