Metascore
99

Universal acclaim - based on 24 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 24 out of 24
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 24
  3. Negative: 0 out of 24
  1. Although made in 1969, this French masterpiece is receiving its first stateside release with a new print struck for the occasion.
  2. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    100
    The results bear witness to a time when sacrifice was bleached of everything but itself.
  3. A great film but also one of the most upsetting films I know.
  4. 100
    This restored 35mm print, now in art theaters around the country, may be 37 years old, but it is the best foreign film of the year.
  5. A film masterpiece, restored more than three decades after its French release, "Army" remains a superb, coolly accurate portrait of a living hell recalled by two men who knew it well and record it truly, Melville and novelist Joseph Kessel.
  6. Reviewed by: Rob Nelson
    90
    Deeply engrossing and deep in numerous other ways that one scarcely encounters at the movies anymore.
  7. The picture was made in 1969 and is only now being released in the U.S., in a beautiful restoration supervised by original cinematographer Pierre Lhomme.
  8. 100
    The result is a brilliant and relentless thriller, painted in Melville's trademark shades of charcoal and midnight blue, marked by daring escapes, unimaginable moments of self-sacrifice and unconscionable acts of betrayal.
  9. 100
    As someone who was part of the Resistance, Melville knew enough to neither melodramatically glorify nor cynically devalue the heroism he presents. This is people doing what needed to be done, Army of Shadows says, this is the way it was.
  10. It's a white-knuckler all the way, with most of that tension coming from the smallest facial expressions exchanged in uneasy silence between compatriots who knew what they were getting into, but were nevertheless unprepared for the moral and emotional fallout of their patriotic actions.
  11. 75
    Lino Ventura is grand as a solemn resistance leader. He's backed by a knockout cast that includes Simone Signoret.
  12. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    100
    Infused with the bleak romanticism of Melville's gangster movies ("Le Samouraï," "Bob le Flambeur"), and deepened by his own experiences in the Resistance, this hard-bitten tribute to freedom fighters makes most current movies look flabby and undisciplined. Don't miss it.
  13. 100
    The protagonists have subsumed their identities to the collective, and they rise and fall in their hearts as the collective prospers or suffers. Their effort is absurd, but their intent is pure. Watching it evokes a combination of pity for their naive idealism and awe at Melville's uncanny brilliance.
  14. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    100
    Composed of relatively few events and scenes, it's often excruciatingly tense and never less than heartbreakingly human. And as much as I admire "Munich," Shadows leaves Spielberg's film in the dust in the moral-ambiguity department. Never before seen in the States, it's already on my year's ten-best list. (April 2006 Premiere)
  15. 100
    From the first sight of German soldiers goose-stepping past the Arc de Triomphe to a postscript that spells out the fate of characters whose moral confusion is all too real, Army of Shadows is a movie of its time -- and ours.
  16. 100
    Not just one of the great films of the '60s but one of the great films, period -- and the chance to discover it at the beginning of the 21st century, in an era when we think we've seen it all, is an unquantifiable privilege.
  17. Everything Melville shows us, he shows us for a reason, and these reasons are never obscure but are rather pertinent to the action and to the moral movement of the world and the characters.
  18. The film is a hugely compelling tribute to the French Resistance movement in World War II, staged with a genuine epic flair but in the icy, downbeat, film-noir style of the director's celebrated policiers.
  19. One particular bit of luck for this reissue is the fact that Melville's cinematographer, Pierre Lhomme, was on hand to help with the restoration of this thirty-five-year-old film. The result is a paradoxical beauty. Very many of the scenes are in sunlight--Melville avoided such facile stuff as shadows for suspense--yet they are chilly. The seasons vary, but the general effect is of a bright winter day that is freezing.
  20. This film, which was never released in America and will now be making its way across the country in limited release, has been immaculately restored and features new subtitles. You can get lost in the blackness of its heart and its shadows. You might never come back.
  21. 100
    For the first, and maybe the only, time this year, you are in the hands of a master.
  22. 90
    It's here that Melville fully achieved his notion of the sublime, applying "Le Samouraï's" "empty" compositions and near theatrical blocking, as well as its methodical suspense, cosmic fatalism, and sense of grim solitude, to a subject far closer to his heart, namely his own World War II experiences.
  23. 100
    It's a strange enough film, yet weirdly great. No movie has quite gotten the clammy weight of fear, the sense of hopelessness that would necessarily haunt underground workers. To see it is to sweat through your underclothes. It'll melt the pep out of your weekend.
User Score
7.9

Generally favorable reviews- based on 78 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 27 out of 37
  2. Negative: 1 out of 37
  1. ClayC
    Sep 15, 2009
    10
    A truly great film. Your users that have given ARMY OF SHADOWS poor reviews seem not just ignorant of cinema, but, especially, ignorant of history. (They actually seem to be just plain ignorant, and very full of themselves.) Full Review »
  2. Aug 27, 2010
    10
    This film is one of the darkest, uncompromising and unsettling movie products of the 1960s - a war movie with no bars and a moral prerogative as gray as the walls of the many prison cells we find the characters in. Full Review »
  3. AndrewO.
    Sep 24, 2007
    5
    "It's a white-knuckler all the way..." "a brilliant and relentless thriller..." "excruciatingly tense and never less than heartbreakingly human..." ??? I wish I had seen the movie these folks had seen, but guess I missed it. You'd have to be a Franco-cinemaphile of the first order to derive that much enjoyment from this movie. Or it may be a serious case of the emperor's new clothes, I'm not sure which. Apart from the admittedly fine cinematography, I found this film to be meandering, turgid and uninvolving. To each his own, I suppose, but beware the hype. Full Review »