During those years, in Paris and elsewhere, courageous French citizens along committed Communist and Jewish immigrants from across Europe plan and execute guerilla actions. They aim to counter the increasingly repressive Nazi actions against French Jews. Most ironically, early in the film, a Jewish mother confidently asserts, "Nothing can happen here. France is the land of freedom and our papers are in order." Tragically the Nazis and their French sympathizers will prove her wrong.
Against the increasingly inhumane repression, fighters as young as 14 participate in terrorist attacks boldly mounted in broad daylight. Armenian poet Missak Manouchian, who leads the resistance, is asked about his commitment since he's not Jewish. Missak replies that Hitler once said, "Who remembers the Armenians now?" Adding complexity, he adds that he always thought revenge was awful, and yet Missak undertakes these actions with the conviction of unyielding principles that endorse justice and dignity for all.
As confrontation and oppression escalate, the momentum and the consequences multiply. Knowing Army of Crime draws on history intensifies the impact. The acting, restrained and intelligent, maximizes the effect. So many characters interact that the identity of each sometimes does get murky. No matter, for they all focus on one purpose. Based on a story by Serge Le Péron, Army of Crime exposes the ugly collaboration of French sympathizers, with a Nazi officer praising one roundup for needing no Nazis to accomplish the operation successfully. To round out the picture, both sides also pay attention to the impact of the press and the coverage they receive.
The title Army of Crime comes from a poster the Nazis circulated with the resistance fighters' photographs. Director Robert Guédiguian includes the occasion of the photo and this infamous poster in the concluding act of the film. As much as we already know about the human atrocity of the Nazis, this film proves that there's more to know, to learn, and to admire in those who stood up against barbarity. In German and French with English subtitles. At Landmark's Plaza Frontenac Theatre.