Daily | Cannes 2015 | Clément Cogitore’s THE WAKHAN FRONT

'The Wakhan Front'

‘The Wakhan Front’

“You’ve never seen a war film quite like The Wakhan Front,” declares Jonathan Romney in Screen. “A strange mixture of the military, the metaphysical and the downright mysterious, this debut feature by French director Clément Cogitore has a highly suggestive philosophical agenda, but at the same time functions as a gripping, subtly eerie drama which keeps you guessing even while it maintains its supernatural (or theological) undertow simmering beneath the surface.”

“There are plenty of problems facing NATO forces today in Afghanistan, but dealing with paranormal activities isn’t one of them,” writes Jordan Mintzer in the Hollywood Reporter. “At least that was the case until The Wakhan Front (Ni le ciel ni la terre), an intriguing if not exactly gripping mash-up of Lone Survivor, The Thing and The Blair Witch Project that pits a squad of French soldiers against a supernatural menace far deadlier than the Taliban.”

Marc van de Klashorst sets it up at the International Cinephile Society: “Captain Antarès Bonassieu (Jérémie Renier) and his men see very little action, other than dealing with the slightly hostile villagers that they have to protect. One night, however, two of the men stationed in an outpost outside of the camp disappear without a trace. This gets Bonassieu and the rest of the men on edge, and when a third man vanishes as well, the captain starts to slowly unravel. When a local warlord named Sultan shows up demanding the return of missing fighters from his side, it is clear that mysterious forces are at work…. Ultimately, The Wakhan Front is a film that has much promise, but eventually fails to reach a satisfying end.”

Variety‘s Guy Lodge: “Introducing the film at its Cannes Critics’ Week premiere, its writer-director described it wryly as ‘John Ford meets M. Night Shyamalan’—as if to pre-empt any such comparisons, flattering or otherwise, from the critical contingent…. Cogitore and co-writer Thomas Bidegain (a regular Jacques Audiard collaborator) are less interested in the phenomenon—earthly or otherwise—behind the disappearances than in the belief systems either agitated or fabricated in their wake. That may disappoint auds seeking a headier tilt into the supernatural, though The Wakhan Front remains edgily unnerving even as character drama. The ensemble commits to the premise with utmost gravity and conviction, enabling our belief in even the most improbable interpretations of its core enigma. Maintaining his sympathetic sturdiness even as his force of control weakens, Renier gives a textured human face to the film’s most esoteric ideas.”

Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa: “With a rhythm not unlike that of The Desert of the Tartars, the director skillfully creates a threatening atmosphere for a group of men (solidly portrayed, most notably by Kevin Azaïs and Sâm Mirhosseini) straying dangerously close to the edge of the abyss as if suffering from dizziness, torn between beliefs and worlds (western and eastern) that are just too different. Built on the principle of ‘the less you say the better,’ the film… showcases a filmmaker who, despite unfortunately going astray during the home straight of the film with an excess of mysticism and metaphors, is not afraid of being bold.”

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