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"Days of Glory"

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Don't let the standard, mood-setting Middle Eastern wailing fool you. This movie really is about Middle Eastern people. More specifically, it's about the North Africans who aided the French against the Axis powers during World War II. The English title is not a particularly good translation of the original, "IndigŠnes," which refers to the indigenous people of Africa. In the film, they consider France their homeland as much as any Pierre and sign up in droves to fight for her. "Days of Glory," which recounts their story, won numerous awards at Cannes, where it sparked debate, and eventually vied for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, losing to "The Lives of Others."

It's been compared to "Saving Private Ryan," but the battle scenes are average at best, mundane at worst. The focus is not on the casualties as much as the deprivations and humiliations inflicted on the soldiers by their own commanders. The discriminations they suffer in the movie range from severe to simply insulting, but all are presented in the same succinct fashion, like ticking off a list in a history book. These soldiers, we learn, didn't get to go on leave like the French troops. Their mail didn't get through. They didn't get promoted. They didn't get tomatoes. Each failure gets its standard issue of screen time, which begins to feel so repetitive, the battle for sympathy is hardest fought.

"Days of Glory" has at its core a little-known aspect of a world conflict nearly picked clean by the movies, and the film helped urge the French government to raise pension for foreign combatants. But it is also very slow, and lacks the emotional power of similar movies, like Edward Zwick's "Glory." Ignoring strong central characters and a driving narrative in favor of the general theme of injustice, "Days" ends up looking like it was filmed for the BBC rather than the big screen. Historical-themed movies are often torn apart for their accuracy, but there are few worse deaths than boredom. (R)



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