La Battaglia di Algeri (The Battle of Algiers) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

La Battaglia di Algeri (The Battle of Algiers) Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ February 16, 2014
Spine Number 249 from the Criterion Collection. The Battle of Algiers" is a film that everyone should see. It presents the historical account of the struggle of Algerian nationalists for independence from French colonists, and in doing so clearly displays the total futility of war. While not as renowned as "All Quiet on the Western Front" or "Paths of Glory", "The Battle of Algiers" is a better film in my opinion. Whereas some antiwar films rely on powerful speeches said by great heroes to portray their stance, "The Battle of Algiers" has no Paul Baumer or Colonel Dax. Neither Ali la Pointe, the leader of the independence movement, nor the French Colonel Mattheiu, who is in charge of the operation, ever states that what he is doing is wrong. Instead, we have only the shots of bodies, both French and Algerian, being carried away from the locations where bombs have gone off. The style of direction resembles that of a documentary, thus bringing about a more realistic feel. You won't find Kirk Douglas or Lew Ayres here. The result is that the characters don't seem larger than life. This is not a drama made by a Hollywood producer looking for an Oscar; but instead, it is a somber portrait of the futility of war. Add in Ennio Morricone's score, and you have a great film that is completely different from almost anything you will ever see. 4 1/2 Stars 2-15-14
Super Reviewer
August 17, 2011
Absolutely riveting. There seem to always be a batch of films that no matter how old they are, they never lose their edge. The Battle of Algiers is one of those impressive works. From a filmmaking standpoint, it commands every ounce of your attention span. The camera work is so smart and compounds the blistering tension that invades every scene. This coupled with Morricone's invasive yet impeccable score never gives you a moments rest, even when you know what is going to take place.
I think what makes this film so powerful is the fact that Pontecorvo was able to encompass not only the power and emotion behind a revolutionary movement, but also show the confusion, sorrow, and often senseless violence that are the by-product of these movements.
Also, It was hard not to make modern day parallels to the occupation of Iraq. Watching these French officials attempt to find order and use their minds to fight an "enemy" who is empowered by their hearts, made me rethink every time I saw an American general on television discussing their efforts in stifling the revolutionary movement. It is a rare and brilliant film and is a must watch for any fans of film.
Super Reviewer
January 17, 2009
It's been said that movies, unlike any other art form, transcend space and time and transport us somewhere else. Movies can promote empathy and can make us concerned with lives that are not our own. Some movies, the really good ones, can even make us better people. The Battle of Algiers is one of those movies.

Based on the true story of Algeria's long struggle for independence, this film chronicles a group of freedom fighters (terrorists) as they attempt to overthrow the French Colonial Government. In it's initial release, The Battle of Algiers hit a little too close to home for Americans who were still wallowing through the muck of their own occupation of Vietnam. I'd wager that, if it were released today, it would have the same effect. It's powerful and brutally honest in its depiction of street warfare. A rare offering that is completely deserving of all the hype.
Super Reviewer
½ November 18, 2009
While it is a visually amazing movie, everything else seems to be in a sense of disarray. The plot was over obvious and sold to you like a used car salesman and the acting was just atrocious. It's hard to convey a message when there is no emotion behind it.
Super Reviewer
May 30, 2007
The Paul Greengrass crib sheet. Great Ennio Morricone score
Super Reviewer
January 31, 2007
strirring and perfect from start to finish. although difficult to watch, it is at the same time one of the more beautiful films ever made. non traditional for a semi-war film, the reality of the story and method of film making provide a shocking glimpse into the tragic reality of the life of people in the midst of struggle. one of the best films ive ever seen.
Super Reviewer
January 10, 2009
Flawless and relevant film making. Over 40 years on and the world is still dealing with similar circumstances. It has even been reported that The Battle of Algiers was screened by the Pentagon is relation to Iraq. It's politically charged but has no agenda. Each side is treated as equals, with no emotional manipulation or justification for the actions. On paper both sides are in the "right" but we see just how devastating the outcomes can be. Shot like a documentary and every bit as important. This is a film that has stood the test of time and will continue to do so. You'll never find a fairer or more powerful film.
Super Reviewer
½ April 9, 2008
this film is a masterpiece! an amazing foray into cinema verite, punctuated by morricone's score. achingly human in depicting algiers struggle for independence and france's 130 year colonization of the country. the juxtaposition of the european quarter/ bourgouisie and the casbah/survirors illustrates the effects of colonization. relevant exploration of terrorism, for a people so disempowered, and torture, as a response. the french position, as stated by colonel mathieu, raises the moral ambiguity of the occupation by revealing that the same french soldiers in the conflict are also the ones that fought nazism and spent time in concentration camps. this film raises many moral and philosophical questions for which there may not be absolute answers.
Super Reviewer
October 30, 2008
This is a badass movie that shows both sides of a revolutions and demonstrates why terrorism begins and why it will always be around. The director uses documentary footage intercut with the film and it is amazing. You also add music by Ennicio Morricone which always helps any movie. Great film and I wish they would use this as an example of how they should make films about war instead of the one sided bullshit that we produce.
Super Reviewer
December 19, 2007
Cold-blooded assasinations, street shoutouts, cafe bombings, riots and torture are the tools used by the Algierian insurgents and occupying French. The warts of both warring factions are shown on both sides in this depressingly familiar, yet utterly fascinating, documentary-style war picture.
Super Reviewer
½ November 10, 2007
incredible film and incredibly relevant to what's still happening 50 years later. it's been called a terrorist manual and an anti-terrorist manual and it is both. a visceral experience.
Super Reviewer
½ November 13, 2006
Col. Mathieu: There are 80,000 Arabs in the Kasbah. Are they all against us? We know they're not. In reality, it's only a small minority that dominates with terror and violence. This minority is our adversary and we must isolate and destroy it.

A very good movie depicting the Algerian War taking place between the French and Algerian Nationalists.

It is shot like a documentary, with the subject matter being shown in a sort of gritty intensity, which has gone on to influence many other directors and film styles.

The first half of the story revolves around the nationalists themselves. We see assassinations, bombings, the behind the scenes of these activities, and some of the politics surrounding it.

The second half of the story portrays the government action taken against these nationalists including their own plots, torture, and various other measures.

Its brutal but very true. The movie was made shortly after the war had ended, but the conflict still lives on today.

Also great is Ennio Morricone's score of the film, which adds to the intensity of some of the scenes.

Very well made film that has inspired many more for future years.

Journalist: The law's often inconvenient, Colonel.
Col. Mathieu: And those who explode bombs in public places, do they respect the law perhaps? When you put that question to Ben M'Hidi, remember what he said?
Super Reviewer
½ October 14, 2005
[font=Century Gothic](I had seen "Battle of Algiers" quite a few years ago and did not remember that much about it. With the ungoing disaster in Iraq and a rerelease in NYC, my interest in the film had been rekindled and I decided to watch it again...)[/font]
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[font=Century Gothic]"Battle of Algiers" starts out in the title city in 1957. The first thing we see is a prisoner who has just been tortured by the French military into giving up the location of a rebel leader, Ali La Pointe. The movie then flashes back to 1954 when La Pointe is an illiterate, petty criminal. He is recruited by the National Liberation Front while in prison. The movie then follows the growth of the insurrection forward to 1957.[/font]
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[font=Century Gothic]"Battle of Algiers" is a powerful, provocative fact-based movie filmed in a neo-realist style of a movement for independence seen through the eyes of both French and Algerians. The movie technically sides with the Algerians but features brutality by both sides and does not glamorize the violence. It equates colonialism with racism. My only minor complaint is that I do not really believe in the efficacy of torture. [/font]
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ August 9, 2014
Well, it appears as though someone recognizes Algerian struggles, although we might not need the reminder, because if we're looking at a place where the primary language is Arabic, it should go without saying that it is destined to be a place of brutal warfare. This is a very multicultural story, because it involves the French, and the Arabic of North Africa, and, just for good measure, it's a film by the Italians who weren't even involved in the Algerian War. I can't help but notice that the French are not involved in this production, so Italy and Algeria don't have anyone to censor their union to show how big of jerks the French can be. Maybe Italy is just working the competition, which would be great and all if there was actually some Italian being spoken in this film, which I'm sure plenty of people think is, in fact, French. The best hope the filmmakers have is that some jerk will recognize this as part of the neorealism movement which was distinctly Italian in its being unafraid to get as nitty and gritty as it can with harsh material. I don't know who would recognize that sooner than Algerian struggles, you know, unless someone is pretentious enough to actually know what the Italian neorealism filmmaking movement was... like me. Well, don't worry, people, because even though I like this film just fine, I'm not pretentious enough to lie about the problems in this film.

The film isn't able to keep a firm grip on its originality, as it has a tendency to return to tropes as a guerilla war drama, and get there in a somewhat limp manner. Reliant on slow-burn tensions when it isn't simply meditating upon not much of anything, Gillo Pontecorvo's direction delivers on plenty of cold spells which all but stiffen a sense of momentum which is even retarded on paper, through repetitious dragging that you'd figure would be in limited supply, considering this film of weighty subject matter's running only about two hours. The film manages to break even by meeting the dragging with developmental shortcomings, for although the motivations can be understood, few, if any characters feel truly distinguished, making it hard to get invested in accessible role, especially within an uneven storytelling style. The film alternates between pseudo-documentary structurings which are objective in feel, and dramatic intimacies whose subjective value is diluted by the stylistic unevenness, and even by a lack of realization to subtlety. About as often as anything, this film is too subtle for its own good, what with its being so limp and undercooked, but when the subtlety lapses, although it doesn't beat you over the head, a sense of genuineness is lost in the wake of melodramatics and an overemphasis on themes that, honestly, are a little problematic to begin with. There are occasions in which themes regarding terrorism feel a bit glorified, and that ought to be disconcerting enough to general audiences, when the film's other ambitions - in uniqueness, thoughtfulness and style - don't lapse and drive the final product very much short of what it could have been. Still, when ambition is adequately fulfilled, the drama ought to engross, even through a somewhat thin script.

Gillo Pontecorvo's and Franco Solinas' script is flawed, offering undercooked and unevenly present, but intriguing characters behind arguably tight set pieces which, with its gritty realism, draws you in, with the help of a unique storytelling style. Sure, the storytelling structure gets formulaic from time to time, and the pseudo-documentary approach to the plotting is distancing enough when it doesn't conflict with the subjective value of the more intimately dramatic aspects, but there is still something fresh about it that helps in making things feel real, which isn't to say that the stylistic highlights end there. Pontecorvo's directorial style is always worthy of some praise, with visual style that is anchored by Marcello Gatti's cinematography being dated, but with a handsomely fitting grime that helps in selling the chill in the air, like, of all things, some nifty audio style tricks. The style orchestrated by Pontecorvo also has its more effective minimal touches, primarily through plays on Pontecorvo's and Ennio Morricone's tasteful scoring, if not on biting somberness which transcend shortcomings in subtlety and pact with anything from tension to resonance. Yes, the subtlety lapses feel propagandist, and of such questionable themes as the possible glorification of terrorism, while realized moments feel balanced enough to be effective in selling the value of the subject matter. In terms of storytelling, there's not much to praise, but engagement value is very much in the story concept, which offers an intimate study on the rise of guerilla warfare during the Battle of Algiers, backed by themes regarding the power and dangers of terrorism, and a social state which might inspired terrorism that might very well still be relevant to this day. They at least remain interesting to this day, because no matter how much this film tries your patience, it ought to hold your attention comfortably enough to engage adequately, even though it could have done so much more.

When the battle is done, there are formulaic occasions and many a moment of dryness throughout an overlong, undercooked and stylistically uneven course of limited subtlety, until enough momentum is lost for the final product to collapses as underwhelming, but there's still enough effectiveness to the writing, stylistic and directorial highlights, and to the worthy subject matter to make Gillo Pontecorvo's "The Battle of Algiers" a fair, if problematic war drama.

2.5/5 - Fair
Super Reviewer
½ July 29, 2011
To call The Battle of Algiers a haunting film is a gross understatement. Though it is an Italian-produced film, it is set in Algeria and follows the true story of the Algerians' struggle for autonomy from France during the mid to late 1950s. It blends the bleak realism of Schindler's List with the social commentary of Battleship Potemkin. This is accentuated by vivid depictions of mass genocide, authentic performances and a mesmerizing music score by Ennio Morricone (who is well known for scoring many Sergio Leone westerns in the 1960s). Though it was released forty five years ago, The Battle of Algiers still packs a visceral punch unlike any other film from its era.

Its style often resembles a documentary film with its raw cinematography and realistic footage. Being the neo-realistic film that it is, almost all of the acting is performed by no-name actors. While this may sound like a bad thing at first, it only adds to the realism, making every torture scene, every shooting, and every death seem as if it were true. Remember, the Hays Code (which would be abolished two years later) was not effective in Italy, so there were practically no restraints on the amount of graphic imagery allowed to be depicted on screen. With this authentic tone, I felt like I cared for the characters much more than the ones in most Hollywood fare of the 1960s. Ironically, they felt much more life-like than the ones characterized by professional Hollywood actors.

The Battle of Algiers is an achingly human experience, enhanced by down-to-Earth direction and authentic character portrayals. It is a bona fide masterpiece of world cinema and has retained every bit of its power since its initial release in 1966. I would be hard-pressed to find a film that has aged as well as The Battle of Algiers has.

Fun fact: This was originally supposed to be a Hollywood film starring Paul Newman. I can't see it conveying the same realism or emotion as in the version we now know.
Super Reviewer
½ August 26, 2007
A great history lessons for those who are not familiar with the French colonial experiement in Algeria and elsewhere in Northern Africa. It is remarkable how interested the French remain in their former possessions to the south.
Super Reviewer
August 18, 2011
Going into my initial viewing of "The Battle of Algiers", I knew I was about to witness not just an important piece of world cinema but I did not expect to find such depth and timeless appeal that assaulted me all at once! The Director, Gillo Pontecorvo, is thought of as one of Italy's most acclaimed Directors and this is his masterpiece! Like his early films, "The Battle of Algiers" utilizes a documentary feel and realism but is edited together so wonderfully, that it flows off the screen and bombards the viewer with It's wealth. The film examines the film's title but has a multitude of perseved angles and intentions in what it portrays and to whom. While many, including the U.S. have had subsequent viewings as not just a cautionary tale but one of combating guerilla warfare, to me I saw a brutal fight for freedom and independence above all else! The Algerian's, who played all but the two French officers in the film, were having to go to more and more extreme acts as the French did in order to crush the revolt. We start at the end, then proceed to the genesis of the protagonist and his rough and meaningless upbringing to fighting as a leader of his own people in a battle for the countries freedom and that of it's people. The film is a gut wrenching and morally haunting film on both sides and is wonderfully balanced and portrayed, representing the horrors but also the humanity at the heart of people. I acknowledge this as truly moving and essential cinema that is utterly captivating and will leave you dwelling on what you viewed and all the ground it covered along the way.
Super Reviewer
May 17, 2009
I put off seeing this for years, battles, colonial politics....zzzzz. More fool me. It was fascinating. Amazingly well balanced story and incredible acting , specially the mobs of extras.
Super Reviewer
½ September 1, 2007
This is one amazing film! It tells the true life story of the algierian people fighting to overthrow the ruling french regieme. The mivie is filmed in a documentaru format so that as a viewer you do not judge either side too harshly, both the Algerians and the French did horrible things to eachother in this revolution and the film does not shy away from showing how many innocent people died just so one side could hurt the other.
Super Reviewer
March 22, 2008
A film from the perspective of terrorists. The anger, tension, and suspense curl up on your lap and force you to watch it from start to finish.
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