There's a good chance that many people will come to Free Men because Tahar Rahim is its lead actor. Fair enough, Rahim deservedly got a lot of attention for his electrifying performance in Jacques Audiard's 2009 prison crime film, A Prophet. I hadn't read anything about Free Men before seeing it, so I wasn't even aware in advance that Rahim is in the film. To his credit, he disappears so much into the role of Younes, a black market smuggler turned resistance fighter, that I didn't recognize him until the final scene of the film.
The movie that Rahim appears in is only slightly less nuanced than his performance, probably due to a lower budget than what Audiard's film was afforded. Free Men is set in Paris during the Nazi occupation, focusing on Algerian men who threw their lot in against the occupying forces. The main thrust of the story lies with Younes burgeoning friendship with Salim (Mahmud Shalaby), an Algerian singer whose true ethnicity is called into question by German forces. Seeing the danger that is unfolding, Younes is forced to interrogate the ethical code upon which he has always relied, choosing between self-preservation or what he knows to be the right path.
Free Men contains a very good third act, but does take its time getting there. There's a strong sense of economy at play in the film that, while delaying the thrills early on, saves the majority of the impact for when its best utilized, near the end of the story.
Free Men screens twice more for the public at Cinemagic on Feb. 14th at 6pm and at the Lloyd Mall 6 on Feb. 20th at 2:30pm.
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