It may seem like a very brave or insensitive move by Made in France director Nicolas Boukhrief to make a film about home-grown terrorism after the recent tragedies and during the current climate of high alert in Europe ever since. However, this engaging thriller about a group of young Jihadists in Paris was made before these events occurred, which makes the movie seem highly prophetic and even more disturbing, but at the same time deeply compelling.
The film follows freelance journalist and devout Muslim Sam (Malik Zidi) as he investigates how the thirst for extremism among the youth can be cultivated. After befriending a group of young attendees, a new addition and leader arrives. Hassan (Dimitri Storoge) has come back from the hardened training camps in Pakistan and recruits Sam and his pals as a local cell to carry out the instructions of Al-Qaeda. To the surprise of the recruits, their efforts will not be directed abroad, but instead the Holy War will be waged on their home turf of Paris.
The story follows what can be considered a pretty standard undercover-cop-in-the-mafia plot, with the usual twists and turns – the protagonist thinking he’s been found out mid-spying in a highly edgy scene, but sighing in relief shortly after; the police detective telling him that he’s their only hope in catching the bad guys. However, the big difference, and what makes this film captivating, is the fact that the audience gets an insight into how anyone could be compelled to take up such a cause and how this could plausibly be carried out. For example, Hassan instructs his fellow jihadists to blend into the populace. And when his scenes of violence and radicalism are contrasted with a scene of him in his mild-mannered buttoned-shirt day job selling shoes in a department store, this type of insight feels particularly striking and chilling.
The performances in Made in France are strong and convincing, adding credibility to the suspense and tense situations that arise. However, characters are not particularly nuanced and can be described easily: there’s the undercover guy, the overzealous guy, the young teen who’s scared, the guy wanting to prove himself and, of course, the maniacal leader. All remain static throughout the film, which may seem a bit dull, but keeping the plot fast-paced seems to be the main objective rather than carving out multifaceted characters.
Made in France is a solid thriller that tackles an unfortunately relevant topic. Although slightly hindered by some familiar turns and a neat-but-weak ending that deflates some of the film’s intensity and impact, this is nevertheless worthwhile viewing as a fascinating and darkly prophetic view of home-grown terrorism.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10