In an era when even superhero movies routinely mimic vérité grittiness, one might expect Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 The Battle of Algiers to have lost some of its ability to astonish. But this benchmark work of documentary-like fiction filmmaking, dramatizing Algerians’ fight for independence from their French occupiers in the 1950s, remains remarkable for its authenticity, and unparalleled for its pulse-pounding action. With the look and feel of newsreel footage, The Battle of Algiers plunges you into a world you never doubt the reality of—and a struggle in which both sides resort to terrifying and brutal tactics. Pontecorvo’s carefully rendered aesthetic is so convincing in its verisimilitude that filmmakers today still marvel over how he accomplished it.
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