REVIEW / FILM OPINION – With “The Third War”, Giovanni Aloi presents himself to the world as a gifted director endowed with a look of formidable insight. Cleverly linking the war film to the social and psychological drama, served by a perfect cast, “The Third War” is definitely a film of and for our time, in both its accuracy and its imperfection.
A film of full topicality
Like many, the film The Third War has long awaited its theatrical release. The first feature film by Italian director Giovanni Aloi, his film was initially screened at the 77th Venice Film Festival in 2020 in the Orizzonti section. Time has passed and its subject, its relevance, have they suffered? Not at all, the film remains hot news because he talks about war, its concept, its eternity, and because he also talks about it in a very specific French framework, that of the reality of the Sentinel mission. This mission represents the participation of the army in urban areas in the Vigipirate plan, put in place since the terrorist attacks of January 2015.
A habit has therefore been acquired of seeing these armed military patrols in the streets, and it is this habit of looking as much as the daily life of these soldiers that the director wanted to question. He does so with great success: the choice of the Sentinel mission to constitute the experience setting is brilliant, the casting is perfect for characters as endearing as they are upset and overwhelming with loneliness, and its very promising achievement.
A war so far and so near
The action of The Third War takes place nowadays in Paris and its region, and in the eyes of three soldiers assigned to the Sentinel mission. Their mission is therefore to patrol the streets of the capital, monitor, and be ready in the face of any terrorist threat. This patrol is essentially composed of Sergeant Yasmine (Leïla Bekhti), Hicham (Karim Leklou) and Léo (Anthony Bajon). Yasmine is pregnant and hides it so she can pass the adjutant exam before giving birth. Hicham is a big mouth who hides the reality of his very short presence in Mali. Finally Léo is a young volunteer who does not really have a specific plan but seeks to be useful.
They have an enemy, terrorism, but where is this enemy? They patrol the streets but cannot intervene when they observe delinquency or violence, police missions. Despite their FAMAS slung over their shoulder, they are thus helpless and waiting for a conflict, for an action, which never comes.
The inspiration comes in part from the very famous novel by Dino Buzzati The Desert of the Tartars, a story about the passage of time and the absurdity of war, and the expectation of a glorious, essential battle that does not come. But when it comes to cinema, we can quickly guess an influence of the neo-noir genre and of New Hollywood. And especially Taxi Driver by Martin Scorsese.
A brilliant new role for Anthony Bajon
Yasmine has her mind turned to her future motherhood, problematic vis-à-vis her professional ambition. Hicham has difficulty concealing his insecurity and his loneliness behind his aggressiveness. Leo seems the only one pretty well in his sneakers and upright in his boots – a little too much even – convinced that he has finally found his place in the world, convinced of an imminent war for which he stands ready.
In this role, Anthony Bajon is fascinating, remarkably at ease in his game of looks and postures. With subtlety, he lets paranoia rise in him and the desire for a splash. And despite his nascent madness, we get attached to the character. In an analogy with Martin Scorsese’s Travis Bickle, Giovanni Aloi’s Leo Corvard will also become attached to a girl, whom he has never seen but with whom he tries to exchange on the phone – which is what She refuses. He wants to save her, he wants to protect her, while she doesn’t ask for anything. Inside Leo’s head war is coming, it is even already there, and it will tragically end up existing but as a news item.
The development of the character is applied, precise and very successful, but we can regret that it overshadows the nonetheless perfect performances of Karim Leklou and Leïla Bekhti. Their characters brought an extended view to the film, a complexity of situations that could have accentuated its universality. Corn the narration seems to gradually forget their stories and that is regrettable.
A war cinema for an intimate drama
In the manner of Jarhead, The Third War tells the psychological effect of war, the one that knows neither beginning nor end, the one that haunts souls and takes on different …