Brief synopsis: after suffering a traumatic incident whilst on combat duty in Syria, a soldier returns home to France. Out clubbing with her sister, they get separated, her sister going off with a Russian playboy. The sister reappears the next day. She is in hospital and has been beaten and raped. The soldier decides to hunt down the man who she believes raped her sister.
Is it any good?: No. Sentinelle is ponderous and atmospheric but unbearably slow. The film looks good, if a little too dark, and has some nice visual flourishes but the central story takes nearly forty minutes to get going and the film is only eighty minutes long.
The acting is okay, not bad nor particularly good but that is mostly because the only person we properly meet in the film is the central protagonist. Every other person in the film is a cliched stereotype.
Spoiler territory: in a Syrian war zone, a soldier has a gun pointed at a local woman’s head. He wants to know where her husband is. The woman is terrified. Klara (Olga Kurylenko), an interpreter, relays the question. She persuades the woman to give up his location, telling her that it would help her son. They only want to question her husband.
A team of soldiers go to try and capture the husband. After a brief standoff, they find their target. Klara is watching the operation unfold from a neighbouring building. She feels uneasy. Something is not right. She leaves her vantage point and moves closer to the operation.
There is an ambush but the team manage to repel it. They split up the family and one of the team takes the young son to check him for weapons. His father is screaming, telling his son to “do it!”. Klara sees, too late, that the boy is wearing explosives. The boy detonates the bomb.
Klara returns to France. Traumatised by the incident, she is transferred to the Sentinelle peacekeeping force, a military presence employed to react to potential, domestic, terrorist threats. She returns to her family, mother and her sister, Tania (Marilyn Lima). Klara is not happy about her transfer.
Klara has a mild addiction to opioids, having been prescribed drugs because of her trauma. She joins up with the patrol. As they patrol the streets, Klara seems a little fraught, her experiences a constant filter. The team come across a domestic altercation on the beach.
Klara goes to break it up, shouting at the man to stop hitting his girlfriend. When the man does not heed her words, she takes him down and drags him into the ocean. One of the other soldiers stops her drowning him.
Back at home, a struggling Klara is hugged by her mother in the kitchen, who tells her that she will be fine. Tania comes in and tells her they are going out on Saturday.
Klara returns to patrolling. She is triggered by a father tying his son’s shoelaces, the boy reminding her of the incident. Later, in the evening, she goes to meet a drug dealer to get some codeine.
Saturday night comes around and the two sisters go clubbing. At the club, the two ladies dance away happily. Tania spots a man she likes the look of. Tania sees a friend, Aurélien (Michel Biel), a club regular. She asks him who the mysterious man is. He tells her he is Russian. Does she want an introduction? He takes her over to meet him.
Klara, alone on the dance floor now, meets another woman. She looks to where her sister is. Tania indicates to her that she is going with the Russian and that she will call her. Klara goes home with the woman. The next morning, she texts her sister. There is no reply.
Back at work, she ends up chasing a suspected drug dealer. She catches up with him. It is the same dealer she bought from. She lets him go. She gets a call, the news prompting her to go to the hospital.
Tania is in a coma. Police Captain Catherine Muller (Carole Weyers) tells Klara that her sister was found on the beach and that she had been raped and beaten.
Klara returns to work and uses her position to return to the club and review the footage of the night she and Tania were there. She gets a photo of the man that her sister met.
She goes and sees captain Muller, showing her the image of the man who was with her sister. Muller tells her that it is Yvan Kadnikov (Andrey Gorienko), son of a tech billionaire, Leonod (Michel Nabokoff). He is well connected and has diplomatic protection.
Muller tells her that Yvan is hiding out at his father’s villa. Klara goes and checks out the villa. She sees Yvan there. She goes to visit her sister and comforts her mother.
The next day, she finds herself patrolling near the villa. She walks into the grounds and searches for Yvan. One of her colleagues comes and leads her out. she should not be there.
She returns to the club looking for Yvan. She sees him go to the bathroom and follows him in there. She threatens him with a knife. He denies attacking her sister. Yvan’s friends come into the bathroom. She ends up fighting with them and beats them all up. The club’s security finds her in the bathroom and throw her out.
At work, Klara steals a gun. She sneaks into the villa, looking for Yvan. She gets knocked out. She is nearly drowned by one of Leonod’s guards. Leonod wants to know why she is in his home. She tells him that his son raped her sister.
Leonod tells her that is son has left the country. Besides, he had nothing to do with the rape or attack. He does not like women. Leonod boasts about having her himself. Leonod’s boasting is interrupted by a phone call. He leaves the room, telling his goons to take care of Klara. She promptly escapes.
Tania wakes from her coma. She tells Klara that Yvan did not attack her. She knows. Tania does not want to press charges, she just wants to forget. Klara urges her to press charges but Tania refuses. Klara leaves the room and sees Leonod on the news. He evades questions about his son’s alleged sexual attack.
Someone tries to kill Tania in the hospital. Klara goes looking for the person and fights with her in a hospital equipment room. Klara bests her. She returns home to get her passport. She leaves just before the police arrive at her place looking for her.
Klara rents a van goes to her workplace and steals some guns from requisitions. She heads to the villa. Inside the villa, she kills her way through Leonod’s security as she looks for him. She finds him hiding in one of his upstairs rooms. She kicks him over a balcony when he offers her money.
Before she can check whether he is dead or not, she gets stabbed by Yvan. She shoots him dead. She is forced to hide as special forces police converge on and search the house. They find Leonod. He is not dead.
Three months later, a recovered Leonod is in Dubai. After a morning swim, he asks the hotel staff to send him up some breakfast. Oblivious to any danger, he pays no attention to the woman who brings his breakfast. It is Klara and she stabs him to death with a fork. Klara returns to France and checks on her sister’s progress. The end.
Final thoughts: Sentinelle is no better on second viewing. It is molasses-slow and lacks emotion making it very difficult to care about anything happening on the screen. Written and directed by Julien Leclercq, with an additional writing credit for Matthieu Serveau, Sentinelle is a film stuck between drama and action and failing on both.
Because the antagonist in Nabokoff’s Leonod is so weak and underwritten, the film lacks urgency. He is supposedly a tech billionaire but they put him in an old-world mansion villa and his security is old school manpower. Not a security camera, motion sensor or laser beam in sight.
The weakest McGuffin ever is used for Lima’s Tania to find herself as the victim of a vicious rape and beating, as well as a target for assassination. Yes, we have all seen an attractive person we want to meet but having met the son of an oligarch for all of five minutes, she decides to follow him to his mansion on her own? Bullshit.
They lazily throw in some lesbian action to lengthen the runtime I assume because it does not add anything to proceedings at all. I love naked women but if the scene had not been in the film I would not have missed it.
The film is shot in dour tones, a brownish, depressing hue over proceedings, with most scenes looking as though they were lit with forty-watt bulbs. There is zero humour in the script and character interactions, aside from getting punched or shot or stabbed, are kept to a minimum, making it difficult to gauge the personality of any of the people in the film.
Kurylenko is very watchable but is only required to scowl her way through the film and shake a bit. Sentinelle is only eighty minutes long but feels longer and, in truth, should have been longer. Had the two writers taken the time to flesh out the characters a little it might have been a moderately entertaining film. Unfortunately, it is not, it is eighty minutes of boredom. Avoid.