The Siege of Jadotville marks a couple of firsts, it’s Richie Smyth’s directorial debut and it’s the first time the siege from the title has been committed to film. As it happens, it’s also one of the better Netflix Exclusives to be released this year.
The film stars Jamie Dornan (The Fall, Anthropoid) as Pat Quinlan, an inexperienced commanding officer of an Irish peacekeeping force of 150 men sent by the U.N. to protect civilians during the Congo Crisis. On arrival the troops are not welcome, but regardless set their station in Jadotville, Katanga. Following an escalation in tensions and conflict the Irish troops, who’ve never experienced war, unexpectedly come under siege from an overwhelming number of Belgian mercenaries and Katangese forces. As the U.N. becomes entangled in the conflict during an era of Cold War tension, the Irish force finds themselves isolated without support as politics and war once again refuse to cooperate.
If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard of the Siege of Jadotville, it’s because the conflict was largely swept under the rug to avoid besmirching the reputation of the U.N. and the Irish military. It’s a tragic outcome to a valiant story that deserves recognition, along with those who participated. Everything about the film itself is solid without being spectacular. The acting, the action, the pacing, it’s all simplistic yet effective in telling the story of the brave men who held their ground against the odds. It’s also nothing you haven’t seen before.
However what does elevate the film above usual war flicks is it’s more significant inclusion of the politics behind the battle, and because of it The Siege of Jadotville is very much a film with two stories. The first is that of the men on the ground fighting for duty and honour, and the other is about the men pulling the strings who deem their actions necessary to avoid an outbreak of war. Despite the two angles of the film, it most certainly leans in favour of the feats of ‘A Company’. Mark Strong’s reprehensible Conor Cruise O’Brien acts as the beacon of our condemnation as the man who believes he’s acting in the interest of the greater good. Even if it means leaving the young Irish soldiers to fend for themselves. At the outset the film details the global issues that act as moving parts behind the scenes of the siege itself, and though it could have done with exploring these further the main goal of the film is to clearly demonstrate the bravery and solidarity of the men who held their own in the face of overwhelming opposition.
As a war film with a specific focus The Siege of Jadotville is a stern addition to the war genre. Though character development is light outside of the roles played by Jamie Dornan and Mark Strong, it also plays a part in recognising the achievements of the entire Irish military involved after those at the time decided to condemn them for their actions.