“The Siege of Jadotville” entertains and educates

Matthew Rietveld / The Watchdog

Netflix Originals are really coming into their own these days. While I was skeptical at the beginning, they really have been putting out some quality. Even though I wasn’t really that into “Stranger Things,” and “Orange Is The New Black” is not my kind of show at all, they are still wildly popular. After a good experience with a Herzog documentary by Netflix Originals, I decided to give “The Siege of Jadotville” a chance.

War movies that are generally all action without any deep interpersonal interactions or emotionally striking moments are generally considered B movies, something along the lines of Rambo or a Chuck Norris flick. Historical war movies, on the other hand, generally turn out to be slow and plodding with little to no thought paid to the action.

“The Siege of Jadotville” tells the true story of a company of Irish soldiers sent by the UN to protect an isolated mining town during the Congo Crisis, when the country became independent from Belgium. The company of Irishmen – not surprisingly – comes under siege over the course of five days.

What makes this film special is not only that it’s a true story, but that there isn’t a huge amount of emotion or a greater message being communicated. From “We were Soldiers” to “Platoon,” from “Thin Red Line” to “Black Hawk Down,” war movies often shovel on message and emotion, feelings of patriotism or the futility of war and plenty of pathos to go around.

Unlike all those other movies, Jadotville simply tells a story. It’s a fantastic story about an incredible group of men faced with incomprehensible challenge, but it’s still just a story. The film focuses on telling the story and presenting it in such a straightforward manner, there’s no thought of using anything but the story to grab the viewer. Of course there’s still an emotional side to the story, but I didn’t feel like I was being told what to think or feel, I didn’t perceive any cosmic message that the audience was intended to get. My heartstrings weren’t tugged by themes of lost love or battlefield anguish, I was engrossed in the events and what the characters experienced. The subtlest events had colossal meaning, and the most shocking moments during the battles occurred when there was no gunfire. Equal parts entertainment and history, I was able to enjoy the movie on my own terms.

More accurate than most movies based on real events, I was pleased with the effort taken to keep things realistic. A couple scenes took some liberty with what happened in actuality but all in all it was an admirable retelling of the battle.

After finishing the movie, I went straight to Wikipedia to read up on the actual battle and spent the next hour or so learning about the events leading up to and following the siege. Jadotville is really what historical movies need to strive for, to make the audience curious about real events and prompt them to go educate themselves.

Story notwithstanding, all the other aspects of the film were top-notch. Acting was fantastic with actors I’m not familiar with, it’s hard to get immersed in a film when you see the same faces that have played hundreds of roles in the past. Music was fitting and effective, nothing tremendously fantastic but didn’t take anything away. Considering the siege took place in 1961, the crew really did an effective job making the period really fit. Not only the aircraft and weaponry, but the entire feel of the movie really nailed the period piece aspect of it without being hokey – not that I know what the 60s were like, obviously.

I enjoyed Jadotville immensely, and hope that it sets a precedent for more movies in its vein. Based on real events yet entertaining with no hint of sanctimonious preaching, it’s fantastic entertainment. It may not be for everybody, not everybody will think it’s a truly outstanding movie but I can’t imagine anybody regretting that they spend the time to watch it.

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