Incendies

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Like all of Denis Villeneuve’s films, Incendies is beautiful to behold. The cinematography is captivating and astounding, painting a bleak and gorgeous view of the Middle East.

The performances are perfect. The opening sequence where Nawal (Lubna Azabal) witnesses the death of her lover is heart-wrenching and painful. All of the actors and actresses portray their respective characters so well that, at times, this film feels more documentary than fiction.

Unfortunately, Incendies falls apart when it comes to the plot. I’m not entirely sure if something was lost in the translation, or I wasn’t paying enough attention, but I literally had no idea what was occurring between the two warring factions. I didn’t know who was supporting what, or why certain cities were being attacked. I know that it has something to do with Christians and Muslims but, aside from that, I was pretty lost.

Another issue I have with Incendies is the aspect of time. In order for the plot twist to be realistic, at least twenty years had to have transpired between the time that Nihad was born and when he became Abou Tarek (Abdelghafour Elaaziz). Another twenty years or so had to have passed before Nawal encountered Abou again in Canada. Despite all of this, Abou looks the exact same the entire time.

Nitpicking aside, there are a lot of plot holes that really degrade the credibility of the story that Villenueve is attempting to tell. Why would Nawal send her children on a wild goose chase literally across the world? What did she hope to accomplish? Why was Nawal randomly selected to be an assassin for whatever group she had joined?

Despite my complaints, the main issue here is that Incendies just isn’t that interesting. The mystery of the plot fails to hold the interest of the viewer, leaving a sense of indifference whether or not the truth finds the light of day. And the truth? The plot twist feels contrived and, rather than the intended disgust, ends up being mostly laughable.

I love Denis as a director and I love most of his films, but this just didn’t do it for me.

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