Everything I read about Army of Shadows said the movie is about the French Resistance, but it’s not, not really. The protagonists of the 1969 film, released for the first time in the United States this year, could be resisting virtually any repressive regime. The movie doesn’t concern itself with why these people are resisting their occupiers, how they’re doing so, or why few of their countrymen are supporting them. It doesn’t provide much in the way of back story either; we don’t know much about these people outside of their secret lives as part of the Resistance.
Army of Shadows focuses almost solely on the toll of plotting in secret and fighting in the shadows. It is about courage and loyalty and mortality. The close-ups of battered, bloodied faces keep it from becoming metaphoric — such graphic depictions of torture make the reality of physical danger inescapable — but Army of Shadows is still an extraordinarily introspective film, not a traditional war movie or a thriller by any stretch.