- 05 Oct 16
Powerful tale of Irish troops besieged in Congo.
Highlighting a battle unforgivably erased from the history books, Richie Smyth’s debut explores the experiences of 157 inexperienced Irish peacekeeping troops, who were posted in the Republic of Congo in 1961.
Jamie Dornan plays Commander Patrick Quinlan, who finds his young men under attack from 3,000 Congolese soldiers, led by French and Belgian mercenaries. Completely outnumbered by armies determined to get their hands on the mineral-rich land, the Irish soldiers find themselves out of their depth – and completely without help.
As traps are laid, ceasefires are broken and aid from the UN delayed by politics, the differences between battle strategy and reality begin to emerge. While both sides repeatedly acknowledge that violence is futile, the shame that accompanies surrender forces them to keep fighting. It’s this element that later causes the UN and Irish Army to sweep the six-day bloodfest under the historical rug.
Smyth, known for directing music videos for U2 and Bon Jovi, switches between the increasingly vicious battles and behind-the-scenes machinations. Dornan brings a commanding determination and dry wit to his role. Incensed by the UN’s perceived abandoning of his men, his frustration is contagious as Irish diplomat Conor Cruise O’Brien (a dodgily-accented Mark Strong) proves utterly ineffective behind the scenes.
Smyth thrillingly evokes the frenetic chaos of conflict, although he is less effective at capturing the atmosphere of the Congo – despite some box-ticking appearances from hyenas. In addition, Kevin Brodbin’s screenplay fails to provide a broader global context for the story.
With this sense of clarity and impetus missing, the pacing lags whenever Smyth cuts away from the battle. But by highlighting the bravery of young soldiers at the mercy of external forces, The Siege of Jadotville acts as a powerful tribute.