This format is a shorter, more to the point, off-shot of the normal review/op-eds I normally do. A ranking will be given at the end from a scale that starts at (from the lowest to the highest): Bad – meh – fine – good – great. Anything not appropriate for these “scores” will likely warrant a more in-depth discussion, which is what I normally do, so this range does not cover all movies, just the ones that I think are suited to this format.
Sentinelle is a 2021 action movie co-written and directed by Julien Leclercq, starring Olga Kurylenko, and recently unleashed upon the world through the streaming giant Netflix that wants money for a monthly subscription that includes offerings such as this movie. As you may have guessed, I hate this movie and I never though 80 minutes could feel like a literal re-enacting of 80 days around the world, but without the travelling. I struggle to find anything worthwhile in the movie and if you’ve read anything I’ve written you should know by now that I don’t like to trash other people’s work; I’m not going to start now, but I will also not nitpick good things just for the sake of objectivity. This is a case of a movie being so BAD, any small moments of adequate filmmaking isn’t worth mentioning here.
The movie follows Klara, who was recently transferred from Syria back to France and put on Operation Sentinelle, which is basically military police doing rounds in Nice’s hotspots for added security; she was an interpreter who witnessed a traumatic event and is sent back against her will, but at least she will be near her loving sister (Tania) and mother. After a while and with Klara suffering from PTSD, Tania gets comatose by a wealthy Russian entrepreneur who is well connected and protected, so she decides to get justice for her sister on her own. I want to start with the reason I was even interested in this movie and how disappointed it made me right from the start: Olga Kurylenko. I don’t consider her a fantastic actor, but she is very underrated; most people will know her from being the Bond girl in the worst Bond movie with Craig (and in general in my opinion) and from Oblivion (one of the most forgettable Tom Cruise movies), but her work on The Serpent, The Ring Finger and more recently The Death of Stalin, speaks for itself. She sleepwalks her way through this movie and even botches the more dramatic elements of her character; however, with a script like the one she was given and what I assume was a very troubled production the blame is not entirely hers. It was however, one aspect I felt pretty confident I would get some entertainment out of and was sorely mistaken.
One thing that people may think would be easy to count on would be getting some thrills from this movie; I hate to be the harbinger of bad news, but the movie has 3 action scenes and none are even adequate. They try their hand at something grittier and more realistic with less flashy sequences and more “raw” violence, but it never feels that way; it feels half-finished, like they shot the easy stuff to get the tone and feel of the scenes right before getting in to shoot the actual stuff and never got around to those. Its nice to see an actor do their own stunts for the action set-pieces (which is immediately dropped for the other two scenes in the most obvious way), but there is no energy in these scenes, no thought put into their audiovisual representation. The bad directing is not only for the action scenes, but also for every single scene of the movie; Kurylenko is bad in the movie, but so is everyone else. The action is dull, but the drama is not only dull, but incredibly simple and overdone yet it adds nothing new or interesting and doesn’t even a deliver an adequate amount of satisfaction to be cliché.
An example of this is Karla’s character and how she is written; she is an interpreter for an elite French army unit, but she also says she is a badass and people say that about her so I guess its true?! But, her actions don’t say that about her; she is easily distracted, is taking pills during her patrols (which she does not take seriously), gets her ass handed to her on most occasions, and, when she is not covering her own mistakes, is a liability to the public. It’s like the writers know that the most common reason for not liking an action protagonist is when they are invulnerable, but forgot to make her badass through actions and not what the characters tell us she is, who also is human and hurtable if not careful or smart. In fact, I’ve not even mentioned her laughably bad plans and stupid actions or her villainous deeds.
Beyond those problems, you have a script that barely functions and treats serious real-world conflicts and conditions as afterthoughts, an ending that is so laughably bad and disjointed, I question if any scene from that ending went in the order it was intended to go in. The most offensive of it all though, has to be that in a runtime of 80 minutes, the movie finds a way to be dragging its feet to an emotionless conclusion and needs to use a TV news exposition moment where reporters tell the character what she needs to know for a full minute. This is a movie that also has side stories with detectives and team members that are clearly set-up, but are not even started let alone finished, and has a story where the main plot points are Karla going to places and getting what she needs, then she screws up, then goes off the handle without really needing to, then pointless epilogue scene and credits.
My main struggle with this movie (besides hating myself for sitting through the entirety of it), is the what: What is this movie going for? Is it a Taken/Atomic Blond, but French with Olga Kurylenko and rawer action and brutality over stylized presentation? Is it a contemporary look at modern French society, how they treat veterans or active army personnel with mental issues, how the justice system is flawed, and how unstable individuals can go off and cause havoc? All I know is what Sentinelle (which is a bad title for either of those intents by the way, and this is coming from me the worst at titling things ever) ended up being, not what it was intended to be, and what it ended up being is BAD.