Milwaukee Film Festival 2016: Neither Heaven Nor Earth
By Andrea Thompson
They say war is hell, but the French soldiers in the film “Neither Heaven Nor Earth” face a new kind of torment, one neither they or the people they're fighting can explain. Captain Bonassieu (Jérémie Renier) is the man in charge of a small group of soldiers in a remote area on the Afghan-Pakistani border, where he tries to keep spirits up as the war winds down and the group awaits orders to head back home. But then, his men begin disappearing one by one. At first, they believe the Taliban are responsible, only to find that their men are disappearing too. As time goes on and the nearby villagers are less than forthcoming, the French and Taliban actually find themselves working together in order to find their missing people. The slow but suspenseful burn is magnificently, eerily shot (in Morocco), using camera work that chillingly passes for military technology, with a location that is used to its best potential. Bonassieu may be a familiar hero, the kind of strong silent warrior who is nevertheless passionately devoted to his men, but his increasingly desperate attempts to find his absent comrades is genuinely heartbreaking. It makes it all the more of a letdown when the movie wanes in the third act. A film can lack a resolution and still pack a punch, but the way “Neither Heaven Nor Earth” refuses to provide answers is just frustrating, not thought-provoking like it obviously intends to be.