At War in U.S. Theaters

In this film coming out in the U.S. on July 19, French director Stéphane Brizé is back with his go-to actor, Vincent Lindon, portraying a social struggle that gets out of hand.
© Nord-Ouest Films

Stéphane Brizé made a name for himself outside of France with The Measure of a Man, which earned its lead Vincent Lindon the Best Actor Award at Cannes in 2015. This movie depicted an unemployed man in his fifties looking for a new job, and At War is in the same realistic, social vein. In this latest work, Brizé uses a documentary-style format to show workers fighting against the closure of their factory in Southwest France. Despite promises from their management, the 1,100 employees at an automobile parts plant are told their site will be closing and relocating to Romania.

The company’s profits do not change a thing; the management says the factory is no longer profitable and sets out downsizing measures. But the workers refuse to accept the decision and occupy the site. This “war” reflects current affairs and echoes various strikes held at French factories such as Goodyear, Continental, and Whirlpool over the last few years.

For almost two hours, Brizé’s hand-held camera follows the key moments in the strike, including protests, a trip to Paris for a meeting at the Elysée Palace, negotiations, legal proceedings, dissent from within the union-led movement, and hopes of finding a buyer for the factory… The battle lines are drawn between two opposing worlds. The director does not deny he has made a political movie, and he has clearly chosen his side. “But I am not a spokesperson for any party or union,” he says. “I am simply depicting a system that is objectively coherent in financial terms, but just as objectively incoherent from a social point of view. These are the two perspectives the movie confronts.”

Brizé has continued his collaboration with his favorite actor, Vincent Lindon, who puts on a sterling performance as Laurent Amédéo, a father and union leader on the forefront of the fight. Lindon stars alongside amateur actors who add authenticity and an almost documentary feel to this moving social saga.

U.S. release: July 19, 2019
Running time: 113 min
Director: Stéphane Brizé
With: Vincent Lindon, Mélanie Rover, Jacques Borderie, David Rey
U.S. distributor: Cinema Libre Studio

Article published in the July 2019 issue of France-AmériqueSubscribe to the magazine.