150 Irish soldiers are forced to stand against an army of 3000 in Southern Africa.
A forgotten part of Irish history is vividly conjured up on the big screen in The Siege of Jadotville.
It’s the debut feature from music video guy Richie Smyth, based on the 2005 book by former Irish soldier Declan Power and adapted by Kevin Brodbin.
The hook here is that it’s all based on a barely believable true story as the UN sends a company of untested Irish soldiers into the wilds of the Congo region of Katanga and all hell breaks loose.
Jamie '50 Shades' Dornan plays Commandant Pat Quinlan who is forced to rise to the challenge without any experience in actual battle, supported by his green troops and the force of Jason O’Mara’s Sergeant Jack Prendergast.
The survivors of this engagement were mistreated in the years since the 1961 incident due to a combination of political factors and seeing their tale told in a positive light is the most impressive aspect of this feature.
Sadly it’s otherwise a pretty hamfisted production. The dialogue is awkward and unnatural and serious budget limitations leave early scenes at the UN looking like they were shot in someone’s garage.
Dornan manages a little more inflection here than in his staggeringly dull American appearances but there’s still little enough personality to be found in him or any of the other men, bar O’Mara’s fierce turn- he could be striding through a Die Hard sequel.
Then there’s Mark Strong- a very fine actor with a wonderful voice and British accent, who is forced to attempt some kind of brogue and fails miserably while wearing a wig which looks like it belongs in a Lego set.
Once the action kicks off things do improve- there are some very attractive explosions and some tense moments- but also a minimal grasp of geography and a lack of any shots featuring the combatants in the same frame. It’s almost as though they didn’t have the money.
When the dust settles this is certainly a story worth telling and a rare moment for Irish soldiers to make their mark. But a lack of resources and experience behind the camera leaves the result less engaging than it might have been.
3/5 -Daniel Anderson