Though salvaged in parts by Lindon’s impassioned performance and a few perceptive asides that hint at a better version of the events, At War is mostly a redundant portrait of working-class struggles that does more to belittle the efforts of its subjects than position them in galvanizing terms.
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The chief value of the impassioned but slightly flavorless At War is that it gives Lindon another opportunity to wear the undersung virtue of ordinary, rough-hewn decency the way a superhero might wear a cape.
DP Eric Dumont captures the action as if he were shooting events as they unfold in real time. Along with the supporting nonpro cast and all the news footage, this makes At War feel much closer to documentary than fiction — and the movie itself less like a workplace drama than the chronicle of a soldier in the heat of battle.
Ripped from the headlines, keenly researched and carefully crafted, this fictional tale has near-universal resonance although some viewers may find it forbiddingly French in that talk, talk and more talk is as plentiful as are distinctive characters and punchy imagery.
The final moments veer too far towards the melodramatic, especially when the rest of the movie has exhibited a preference for the intellectual powers of argument, logic and reason, however the sense of desperation and accompanying symbolism is tragically potent.
This is a stridently, bafflingly cacophonous movie which despite some smart, shrewd touches, is pretty much content with its single note of shouting acrimony and finishes by immolating itself in martyred self-pity.