Free Men (★★★ Empire review)

FreeMenSquareYounes (A Prophet’s Tahar Rahim), an Algerian immigrant eking out a living in Nazi-occupied Paris by smuggling contraband, undergoes a slow radicalisation from apolitical black market operator to freedom fighter in the second feature from award-winning French-Moroccan filmmaker Ismael Ferroukhi. Through Younes, a fictitious composite of various nameless Algerian/Arabic immigrant heroes of the French resistance, Ferroukhi tells the true story of a nightclub singer (Mahmoud Shalaby), one of dozens of Jews who escaped the Nazis thanks to false papers provided by the cunning rector of the Paris Grand Mosque (played by Of Gods and Men‘s Michael Lonsdale). The slow-building drama may prove too flavourless for some, and Rahim’s performance is perhaps too inscrutable to fully engage the audience. That said, the story is a worthy one, and the gripping final sequences suggest the next target in the heroes’ sights: freeing their homeland from the French. ★★★

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