The Battle of Algiers (La Battaglia di Algeri)

1967

The Battle of Algiers (La Battaglia di Algeri)

Critics Consensus

A powerful, documentary-like examination of the response to an occupying force, The Battle of Algiers hasn't aged a bit since its release in 1966.

98%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 85

95%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 14,423
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Movie Info

This highly political film about the Algerian struggle for independence from France took "Best Film" honors at the 1966 Venice Film Festival. The bulk of the film is shot in flashback, presented as the memories of Ali (Brahim Haggiag), a leading member of the Algerian Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN), when finally captured by the French in 1957. Three years earlier, Ali was a petty thief who joined the secretive organization in order to help rid the Casbah of vice associated with the colonial government. The film traces the rebels' struggle and the increasingly extreme measures taken by the French government to quell what soon becomes a nationwide revolt. After the flashback, Ali and the last of the FLN leaders are killed, and the film takes on a more general focus, leading to the declaration of Algerian independence in 1962. Director Gillo Pontecorvo's careful re-creation of a complicated guerrilla struggle presents a rather partisan view of some complex social and political issues, which got the film banned in France for many years. That should not come as a surprise, for La Battaglia di Algeri was subsidized by the Algerian government and -- with the exception of Jean Martin and Tommaso Neri as French officers -- the cast was entirely Algerian as well. At least three versions exist, running 135, 125, and 120 minutes. ~ Robert Firsching, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for The Battle of Algiers (La Battaglia di Algeri)

All Critics (85) | Top Critics (28)

Audience Reviews for The Battle of Algiers (La Battaglia di Algeri)

  • Oct 09, 2016
    Filmed in such a way as to blur the lines between reality and cinema, The Battle of Algiers is possibly one of the most powerful war films. The documentary-style feature allows the film to feel real and the lack of big name celebrities also creates an authentic experience. The film also doesn't need to add tons of fictional subplots that only use the war as a backdrop. Instead, the war is the centerpiece upon which the plot is born. The Battle of Algiers is intense and thought-provoking, though not necessarily enjoyable. Worth a look. Note: Viewed as part of my French Cinema class. Rating: 74
    Bradley J Super Reviewer
  • Aug 09, 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
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Feb 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
    Bruce B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 06, 2013
    Widely heralded as one of the most historically significant films of all time, watching "The Battle of Algiers" is like watching a riveting, 2-hour newsreel footage, complete with all those 'blink and you'll miss it' moments of candid power. But more importantly, what makes "The Battle of Algiers" a fine film is its incredibly unbiased and objective depiction of the Algerian revolution; a quite tricky feat perhaps, considering the fact that for films like this, it's quite difficult not to choose sides. But by choosing not to be emotionally partisan, "The Battle of Algiers" was able to realistically reconstruct the events and make them flow in an intensely natural way. On one side, there's the radical group called the National Liberation Front (FLN), whose tactics border on outright terrorism. While on the other, there are the French paratroopers, whose interrogation methods and counter military acts border on the atrociously inhumane. Gillo Pontecorvo, the film's director, is quite adamant in highlighting the fact that in the bigger picture, none of them (the FLN and the French military) are completely righteous nor utterly justified in what they do and that the film's real protagonist is not the French's Colonel Matthieu (played by Jean Martin) or the FLN's Ali La Pointe (played by Brahim Hadjadj) but the Algerian people themselves. Ultimately, "The Battle of Algiers" succeeds as a film that deals with the universal language of revolution and as a stunning portrayal of an otherwise obscure fragment of history. Speaking as a citizen who is born and raised in a country (the Philippines) that had its fair share of political uprisings, I can easily connect with the Algerian revolutionaries' fevered sentiment towards freedom and colonial deliverance. But what I cannot particularly embrace in the Algerian Revolution is the unnecessary bloodshed, which was starkly captured by the film's black and white photography (by Marcello Gatti) and was intensified by Ennio Morricone's iconic musical score. Personally, I did not enjoy "The Battle of Algiers" that much because, after all, there's no way that the film is an entertaining one to watch. It's never a film that wholly glorifies the Algerian Revolution and carelessly trivializes the violence involved in it. Instead, the film shows the titular conflict merely as one thing: a bloody footnote in human history. And for this, I praise the Algerian government, which has commissioned the film's creation, for not peppering it with spirited propaganda. With a faceless crowd as the protagonist and with no sides taken, "The Battle of Algiers" is a clear-cut proof of how neutrality can make a cinematic difference. (Note: In 2003, the film was screened in the Pentagon to highlight the pressing problems faced by the United States in its invasion of Iraq. Quite ironic, isn't it?)
    Ivan D Super Reviewer

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