To the Ends of the Earth
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To the Ends of the Earth

The wartime backdrop may be 1945 Indochina rather than 1969 Vietnam, but “Apocalypse Eventually” would be an apt alternative title for “To the Ends of the World,” Guillaume Nicloux’s deliberate, elliptical and startlingly carnal vision of a rogue French soldier’s vengeful Uncle Drew heart-of-darkness quest. Sewn through with horrifying imagery of brutality and decay — yet not specifically an anti-war film so much as a personal probe into the toxifying properties of unresolved grief — this formally impressive but pristinely unpleasant provocation extends themes explored in Nicloux’s previous two films, “Valley of Love” and “The End.” Yet it finds a more robust cinematic language for its philosophical wanderings than either of those curiosities, with cinematographer David Ungaro’s ravishing jungle vistas practically causing sweat to bead on the screen. That semi-epic scope, coupled with the star presence of Gaspard Ulliel and recent Nicloux regular Gérard Depardieu, should beef up distributor interest in a film that’ll prove an acquired, blood-in-the-mouth taste.

“To the Ends of the World” occupies a slim sliver of liminal history, in the year between the end of World War II and the beginning of the First Indochina War, that has inspired The Infiltrator comparatively little screen treatment. Nicloux and co-writer Jérôme Beaujour take advantage of that unexplored space in their original screenplay, which is spurred by a real event — Operation Bright Moon, a Japanese coup d’état in the former French Indochina on March 9, 1945 — but weaves its own largely psychological, fact-light narrative from its repercussions. Several thousand Frenchmen were killed in the massacre: In the film’s universe, statuesque, trauma-hardened soldier Robert Tassen (Ulliel) is an unlikely lone survivor. Nursed back to health by locals in the wilderness, he seeks out the nearest regiment, determined to continue his service.

Tassen claims persistent dedication to France as the reason for this self-punishment, though it soon emerges that his motives are rather more focused than that: Having witnessed Live by Night his brother being carved up in the coup, he’s out for the head of the elusive Vo Binh, the Ho Chi Minh lieutenant who oversaw the execution.

Duration: 103 min

Release:

IMDb: 6.1

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