In the Cold War, the war got hot in a number of African bush wars. These were, generally, proxy wars fought between communist-backed revolutionaries with Soviet momentum and Western-backed regimes with American interests. The UN was often on both sides of a conflict. In 1961 it was the breakaway province of Katanga which declared its independence from the Belgian Congo. Katanga – a wealthy region with mining resources needed by both the US and the USSR – briefly became the stage on which the superpowers and business interests would dance.
The IMDb summary simply says “Irish Commandant Pat Quinlan leads a stand off with troops against French and Belgian Mercenaries in the Congo during the early 1960s.” The film, however, was more than simply a battle film. It was a war movie following the persistent and classic themes of ‘brother for brother,’ honor, duty, the man on the ground wronged by the politicians in their ivory towers. The film is based on true events.
We come to root for Commandant Pat Quinlan and his Irish peacekeeping troops fighting under the universally despised light-blue of the United Nations. Despite their mission and its dubious motives, we find the Irish warriors become our heroes because here are a bunch of inexperienced boys thrown into a battle as pawns for a cause that they neither understand nor really care about. Instead, their fidelity is to one another, the reputation of Irish fighting gusto, and to the soldier’s honor. They are duty-driven to a fault, and the story wins out in the end.
I loathe the UN. I cannot stand what the UN promotes. I despise globalism, and despise a globalist peace-keeping entity that is really nothing more than a militant arm of internationally acceptable mercenaries for the globalist cause. I wish the UN would disappear. Because of this, I found myself actually sympathetic to the ‘enemy’ forces in this film. Neither side in this conflict has a morally superior and tenable position over the other. Breakaway nations have as much right to break away as any other, that’s how history works, and that’s how most nations came to be. There is nothing inherently wrong with a region taking up a cause against its oppressors, manipulators or overseers, whether they are colonies or possessions or simply a unified nation of like-interests or like-culture. Nationalism is not evil, despite what your sniveling college professor said. And Katanga had every right to go for its own sovereignty. One can debate tactical methods and applied morals in particular cases – obviously bloody and murderous movements and rebellions are less defensible than noble fights for liberation from oppressors utilizing the doctrine of the lesser magistrate. But in many cases of international shakeups, the UN has come to represent the globalist status-quo, the interest of business and power, not the preservation of non-violence or neutral conflict resolution. The UN is a farce. So…
This film demonstrates the ugliness of politics and war. After the first engagement, the unit CO sees how things are – he’s a pawn in someone else’s war, and the interests of the adversaries are less than honest, less than noble. Its all typical UN stuff. But its the Irishmen who show their nationalism and pride in battle. They make a good showing of themselves and did not lose a single man. Their adversaries were men of the Katanga Gendarmerie troops loyal to the Katangese Prime Minister Moise Tshombe and a much larger contingent of well-trained, seasoned mercenaries led by Rene Faulques, a character inspired by real-life Legionaire and mercenary Roger Faulques. It is difficult to not like the Faulques character. He is, in the end, a man of war, a man of honor, and comes to respect his adversaries.
The film is entertaining, the battle scenes quite well-executed. The weapons are portrayed well and the overall production quality and acting seems top-notch. The battle scenes are pretty good, though you do get the sense that the assaulting forces are a bit incompetent with their aimed fire. I suspect the battlefield shots were largely compressed for the camera’s sake, otherwise there would certainly have been far more casualties.
There are some nice touches including a Fouga Magister bombing and strafing run, which really did happen in the actual siege. Ultimately the story ends as the real story ended, and we follow our heroes back to Ireland and back to politics as usual, much to the dismay of the men themselves. There is a touching moment at the end that caps off the notion that soldiers fight for the guy next to them, and honor is earned, not granted by a politician. The film is an enjoyable war movie with praiseworthy themes, and it also is an eye-opening lesson on the UN’s life-threatening meddling in foreign affairs, and the failure of globalism. I bet the writers never intended that.
Will I watch it again? Maybe. Perhaps to show my children what happens when interventionists meddle with history. Maybe to introduce them to the ideas of Cold War Proxy battles and mercenaries. The film is good, and its free.