Zulu: forgiveness or justice?
by Fabien Lemercier
- Orlando Bloom and Forest Whitaker lead the investigation in Cape Town with all the stops pulled out. An efficient thriller in English by French director Jérôme Salle
When he chose Cannes as the setting for his first feature film, Anthony Zimmer (2005),French filmmaker Jérôme Salle probably did not imagine that he would find himself eight years later on the Croisette for the closing of the 66th Cannes Film Festival with Zulu [+see also:
film profile], a thriller in English bringing together hotshots of global cinema such as British actor Orlando Bloom and American actor Forest Whitaker.
Filmed in South Africa, the director’s fourth feature film is in line with his work on Largo Winch [+see also:
film profile] (2008) and Largo Winch II [+see also:
film profile] (2011) by focusing on action and rhythm in a clear attempt to reach the American blockbuster public. Fights, shootings, and car chases are inherent parts of the movie and the investigation is led briskly, sometimes benefitting from a few accommodating screenplay arrangements. Very much at ease with this genre and having won cinematographic amplitude, Jérôme Salle also benefits from the charisma of his main characters and the South African environment, which is made up of spectacular scenery (beauty of the Cape Town bay, never ending beaches, township mazes) and striking sociological issues (scars still fresh from the apartheid, misery and gang activity, omnipresent video-surveillance, etc...), themes already well tackled by Caryl Férey’s detective novel whose adaption is quite close to the book.
The captain of the criminal unit, the mute and workaholic Ali Sokhela (Whitaker) and his two deputies, the divorced partygoer Brian Epkeen (Bloom) and the good family man Dan Fletcher (Conrad Kemp), must solve the murder of a young white girl from a good family. Her last bank statements and then her phone records lead them to a dealer from the slums, who resists arrest, leading to the death of Dan. Ali and Brian continue to follow the lead. From a bloodthirsty gang leader from the townships to a society of big white-armed security officers, they find the head of the snake: a researcher acquitted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Charged, at the time of the apartheid, to build a kind of ethnic bomb, a virus capable of eradicating the black population, the latter has recycled his experience of molecules to create a new synthetic drug, the Tik, with devastating secondary effects, which unleashes incredible violence and has been tested on human test subjects, kids whose sudden disappearance is not bothering anyone. No one, except Ali and Brian, who will give a lot to succeed in their investigation in which the weight of the past has to unfold by choosing forgiveness or justice.
Efficiently filmed and edited (with many advances in parallel to the solo investigations of the two protagonists), Zulu can also count on Denis Rouden’s control of directing and cinematography and that of Alexandre Desplat for the music. A calibrated product for the international market, the film expresses with a punch (and often without worrying about nuances) the violence at play in all the echelons of the South African society.
Produced by the delegate Parisian company Eskwad and coproduced by Pathé, which handles the international sales and was very successful at the Market in Cannes, Zulu is an additional proof that French cinema is attempting new experiences and does not hesitate to cross boundaries, as much in terms of author films or more “mainstream” directors like Jérôme Salle.
(Translated from French)
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