Home Video Picks & Passes 08.09.15

In the Line of Fire (1993) — PICK
The Patriot (2000) — PICK
Timbuktu (2014) — PICK

One of the most extraordinary, most movingly humane films I’ve seen all year is Timbuktu, a beautiful, haunting portrait of a community of mostly Sunni and Sufi Muslims in the West-African nation of Mali that has recently fallen under the sway of the radical Salafi movement Ansar Dine, which flies the flag of the Islamic State.

It’s an eye-opening depiction of a moderate Muslim culture obliged to adopt alien strictures imposed by an occupying jihadi force: Women are forced to take the veil, then to don gloves and socks; men are required to roll up their pants; smoking, sports and even music and singing are forbidden (haram). In one striking scene, a group of Mali youth unable to forsake their love of soccer go through the motions of the game without an actual ball. Musicians continue to play and sing in secret, while gunmen patrol the streets and rooftops stalking their prey.

The story centers on a herdsman, his wife and daughter living in the desert in comparative peace, though a jihadi leader has taken to harassing the wife in the husband’s absence. The expectations of an honor culture lead to a tragic confrontation, and, with the stoic fatalism of Islamic resignation to the will of Allah, characters accept their fate with unnerving calm.

Also available on Amazon are a pair of unequal action movies starring two Hollywood icons: one a near-classic action thriller, the other a popular war film. In the Line of Fire stars Clint Eastwood as an aging Secret Service agent who is haunted by the assassination of JFK and hopes to redeem himself by saving the current president from a shadowy assassin. John Malkovich is terrifically chilling as the anonymous would-be killer. Finally, there is Mel Gibson’s The Patriot, a rather cartoony but often effective Revolutionary War epic.


CAVEAT SPECTATOR: In the Line of Fire: Recurring action violence; brief sexuality (nothing explicit); some obscene language and profanity. Adults. The Patriot: Bloody battlefield violence and gore; slaughter of noncombatants; a few strong expressions. Adults. Timbuktu: Sporadic, brief violence (not very graphic or bloody), including an execution by stoning and a flogging; fleeting bad language. Teens and up.