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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

‘The Siege of Jadotville’–Tip Top

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Ben Nietzel
Ben Nietzel
Ben Nietzel works as the principal of Saints Mary and Mathias Catholic School. He also enjoys coaching Muskie football and reviewing movies.

“The Siege of Jadotville” is based on the true story of Irish U.N. peacekeepers forced to hold their position against overwhelming odds.

Pro – Stories in History

“The Siege of Jadotville” is based on real life events that occurred in the Republic of Congo in 1961. A year after declaring their independence from Belgium, an assassination-fueled coup threw the new African country into chaos as General Moise Tshombe tried to force independence for the mineral rich region of Katanga. The newly minted United Nations sent in peacekeeping troops to try to help stabilize the situation, including members of the Irish army.

Ireland’s A Company, under the command of Commandant Pat Quinlan, was given the task of protecting the mining community of Jadotville. Quinlan’s 157 soldiers were out-manned, outgunned, and isolated more than 80 miles from any help. When mercenary-backed rebels began to swarm around them, bravery and quick-thinking became their only hopes of survival. “The Siege of Jadotville” is a fascinating story. It illuminates another of those amazing moments of history that all too often go unknown and forgotten. This film showcases just how often fact can be more entertaining and poignant than fiction.

Pro – Movie making

“The Siege of Jadotville” is a well-made film. The acting is brilliant. Jamie Dornan is wonderful as Quinlan, a man whose vast knowledge of military affairs is finally put to the test of the crucible of live fighting. Danny Sapani is great as Tshombe, equal parts threatening and sophisticated, Sapani’s Tshombe is a man of complexity, even in the small amount of time he’s given. The sets and costuming are also wonderful. The look and feel transports the viewer back to another time. The action is intense and well shot. It looks every bit the Hollywood blockbuster. The film also has a rising tension and desperation that mirrors its historical inspirations and feels very much like a cross between the films “Zulu” and “Blackhawk Down.”

Neutral – Muddy politics

Politics in the early 1960’s was a confusing thing. As the two superpowers of the world struggled to bring as much of the globe into their sphere of influence as they could, many local and regional conflicts took on significance far beyond what could be seen on the ground level. This was certainly true in the Congo, where the region of Katanga produced minerals that were crucial to manufacturing the most high-tech of weapons. While “The Siege of Jadotville” touches on this, at times it can all get quite confusing. It’s never quite clear who is doing what, and why they are doing it. Perhaps this is a mirror reflection of the secret machinations of the time. Perhaps by keeping it confusing, the creators can escape the sticky web of judging the politics in play. Either way, it doesn’t detract from the film, but it does raise a lot of questions.

“The Siege of Jadotviille” is an amazing movie. It does what movies can do best, take a little-known story of heroism and bravery and shine a light on it. For a Netflix original, it has topflight production values and looks and feels the part. It’s a great movie, an interesting story, and well worth your time to check out. Grab some curbside popcorn and give it a viewing this weekend!

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