Of Gods and Men
In the mid 1990s, a small group of French Trappist monks live in the mountains of Algeria, gently striving to be of service both to their own Christian god and to their agreeable Muslim neighbors. But with their village suddenly besieged by murderous Islamic insurgents, the monks must decide—individually and together—whether to accept protection from an untrustworthy government, leave altogether or risk their lives by staying put and unprotected. Director Xavier Beauvois, co-scripting with Etienne Comar, has commendably stripped this true story of all available cant, overstating neither the tough legacies of colonialism and fundamentalism nor the high demands of contemporary religiosity. Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale co-anchor a strong and savvy cast, setting a pace of patience and straightforward contemplation that Beauvois also applies as much to the rustic landscapes as to the monks’ reverberating chants. If a climactic snippet of Tchaikovsky seems comparatively like too much, maybe that’s because it’s been ruined for a while by Black Swan, and because Of Gods and Men’s perceptive photography, smart editing and nuanced acting already has said enough.