When a film comes along with as generic and uninspiring a title as this, it puts it on the back foot straight away in winning the audience’s attention and affections. Translated from the inspiring original French title (Forces Speciales), the title is symptomatic of what is wrong the film, but does not tell the whole story. As an adventure film (the unit fairly quickly locates and liberates Elsa, but then lose contact with their pick-up team and so must make the journey on foot from Pakistan into neighbouring Afghanistan) it looks by turns beautiful and perilous and is slickly and effectively shot, but narratively it makes not nearly enough sense, tonally it plays too many cheaply sentimental cards and the characterisation is unforgivably thin.
We are far too briefly introduced to the team and given far too little back-story to latch on to, all of which conspires to rob the characters of any sympathy or empathy from us as the mission begins to claim them. It is hard to care what fate befalls them when you can barely recall their names. The film creates unnecessary but insurmountable narrative problems for itself too. A series of subtitles telling us for how many days the team have been trekking would have been helpful, á là 27 Hours or Touching the Void, however here it simply draws attention to the fact (as was the case with Rising Tide) that no-one seems to have taken on any food or water for a week, despite trying to traverse some of the most hostile terrain on the planet.
For the most part the action sequences are convincingly shot, with some attempt at realism in relation to the physical effects of gunshot wounds, but in the end they become boringly repetitive. There is far too much in the way of faux-heroic slow-motion and self-sacrifice, which distance the viewer rather than draw us into the drama that is otherwise unfolding.
Too bland and unimaginative to be engaging, too paper-thin to be compelling, not ridiculous enough to be entertaining and not creative enough to be a curiosity item. Some will catch this, but most will not bother. If you feel like it, you can catch it here to rent and buy.
Extras: Not bad, considering. There is an hour-long making of that shows us the Special Forces boot camp in compelling detail, along with a long careful look at location scouting and the problems of shooting in hostile conditions. The director is clearly committed to finding realistic locations and remains an interesting and endearing presence. The deleted scenes are short and add nothing, though an interview with military advisor (and film extra) Marius makes for interesting viewing.