Review / ‘See You Up There’ (MA) ****

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IN a little less than four months, there will very probably be major ceremonies commemorating the centenary of the end of World War I.

Battle-weary troops on both sides in trenches await commencement of the Armistice at 11am on November 11, 1918. Writer/director Albert Dupontel’s film adapting a novel by Pierre Lemaitre begins two days earlier.

Battle gives Lieut D’Aulnay-Pradelle (Laurent Lafitte) a strong buzz. He tells the company of French infantry, which he leads, that Headquarters has ordered them to attack. In the ensuing bloodbath, Privates Maillard (Albert Dupontel) and Pericourt (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) find themselves in a horrifying situation.

A sniper’s bullet has destroyed Pericourt’s lower mandible. Worse, there is evidence that two other French soldiers have been shot from behind while facing the front and that Pradelle was the shooter.

A year later, Maillard learns that Pericourt has recovered but is condemned to wear a mask and unable to speak. Before the war, Pericourt was showing promise as an artist. The pair decides to turn that talent into a scam that will discredit Pradelle.

And that, embellished with domestic politics arising from the relationship that Maillard builds with Pericourt’s father (Niels Arestrup), a man of culture, wealth and local influence, is the principal thread of the film’s drama.

Early in the film, a police enquiry into the scam gives Maillard a hard time. As the film progresses, that is easily dis-remembered. After exploring events since that day of battle, the film revisits that enquiry to deliver an envoi that ties up the loose ends very neatly.

There’s much to commend about “See You Up There”. Its creation of the period – costumes, locations, streetscapes and transport – is handsome. Its thesis is credible. It epitomises two familiar aphorisms. Revenge is a dish best served cold. And, oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive. It combines those with a commendable credibility and a mordant comedic thread. Those four stars are serious.

At Dendy

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Dougal Macdonald
“CityNews” film reviewer

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