Shake Hands with the Devil Reviews
I've always had a great respect for Romeo Dallaire. After seeing this movie, I have a different kind of respect however. This movie allows us to see the horrible things that happened through his eyes.
This movie brought up all kinds of emotions within me. The most important/prevalent was how important it is to respect humanity, to respect all life and to uphold humanity and all life, at any cost. It made me feel very proud to be a Canadian and a member of the Canadian Armed Forces.
I'd like to close with the appropriate motto of the CIC "ILLUMINATE VIAM"
"Powerful account of the Rwandan genocide in the mid-1990's, as seen through the eyes of Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire (Roy Dupuis) who led a United Nations peacekeeping force. As the world stood by, 454 UN Peacekeepers from over 20 nations chose to stay behind in Rwanda, helping to save the lives of 32,000 Rwandans who would otherwise have been murdered."
First, the good things, in addition to Dupuis: the movie was filmed in Rwanda, in the actual locations of the events shown. This adds a huge dose of authenticity to the setting and it must have helped the actors enormously to be there. Rwandan extras were used throughout and that, too, adds to the emotional impact of some scenes. From what I recall of the story from the news (I have not read Dallaire's book, on which this film is based), the film seems to be true to the history as we know it and does not attempt to whitewash how badly the West handled the looming and ongoing violence. I also appreciated the bilingual nature of the film, given that Rwanda, a former Belgian colony, was more French than English. I can see, though, how that will limit the film's appeal in some locations.
But. The film's structure and script are confusing. I suspect that if you're not Canadian or Rwandan and didn't follow this story in the news, you'd have a hard time following this movie. Characters and factions are introduced quickly with little background or context. The all-important U.N. decisions not to get involved receive very little screen time and even less explanation. There is no sense of how the outside world was reacting to the news coming from Rwanda. Dallaire devises plans to stop the slaughter, if only the U.N. would give him the resources and the authority, but it's not clear whether these plans were truly workable. Where the script really shines is where Dallaire is trying to protect refugees from the machete-wielding thugs manning barricades throughout the capital city of Kigali.
But. The film is framed with flash-forward scenes of Dallaire apparently in therapy after witnessing the horrors of the genocide. He sits in an office, in a suit, while a voice-over narration describes how he felt about some of the action just seen. Neither he nor the supposed therapist speak out loud to each other, though Dallaire appears to be having hallucinatory conversations with his colleagues from the Rwandan mission. While it's apparent that Dallaire is deeply traumatized by his experiences, it's not clear what he's doing in this office and how long or how often he's been there.
But. As the film progresses, it tries to do too many things. It starts as a geopolitical tale of the genocide, but it seems to become a tale of Dallaire's heroic struggle to save who he can. Then, in the final half-hour or so, it becomes a very personal tale of Dallaire's failure to maintain his sanity and detachment.
But. There are some odd editing quirks, where the shot jumps occasionally (a jump cut, I believe it's called), but to the same camera angle, instead of a different angle. It gives the effect of having cut a few frames out and then spliced the ends back together. The budget was limited, as can be seen in the few special effects shots of combat, where rockets and explosions just don't look quite right (as if any of us know what such scenes would really look like, nevertheless, moviegoers are used to a certain look and this film doesn't quite deliver).
I like this film. I want to like it more, but it gets in its own way.