Shake Hands with the Devil
Time Out New York Project: Issue #789, November 11-17, 2010
Dir. Roger Spottiswoode. 2007. R. 112mins. Roy Dupuis, Owen Sejake, Odile Katesi Gakire.
By now, movies about the Rwandan genocide are their own subgenre, and this conventional yet still honorable feature falls somewhere in between the awards-grubbing Hotel Rwanda and the moving Munyurangabo in terms of effect. Its biggest virtue is the central character, Canadian general Roméo Dallaire (Dupuis), who heads the quickly overwhelmed peacekeeping force UNAMIR. His flat yet arresting voice and overly widened eyes — as if to blink would be a dereliction of duty — make this no-nonsense soldier a continually compelling figure. Not even the film’s often-misguided attempts to turn Dallaire into a sub-Saharan Oskar Schindler (especially via a regretful, and regrettable, psychiatrist’s-office framing device) detract from his grounding presence.
Dallaire’s stalwart stoicism offsets the horrors on display, which are filmed with expectedly solemn slickness. Nonetheless, they benefit from being shot on several of actual locations of the genocide — a choice that here plays more like exorcism than exploitation. Director Roger Spottiswoode and screenwriter Michael Donovan are clearly aiming to do right by this unspeakable atrocity. But for everything admirable, like the way female Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana (the wonderful Gakire) resigns herself to a violent death, there’s a heavy-handed metaphor — a cute gaggle of orphaned goats — ready to smack away the intelligence.—Keith Uhlich
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