Les Hommes du feu | Kilburnlad | Film | Reviews


Les Hommes du feu

Les Hommes du feu

Films about firemen, as with those involving the police and other emergency services, seem to hold an enduring fascination for the public. But such films often concern themselves with acts of extreme bravery, or extreme disaster, with heroic derring do. But here the director has deviated from this approach, and in Les Hommes du feu we have the story of a largely unspectacular rural fire station in the south of France, with the men and women shown serving the community during some far from spectacular incidents, although nonetheless important in their own right. Of course, being French, what we do have are some very human story lines underpinning the action.

Bénédicte Meursault has been transferred to this rural brigade to join an all-male team. She is a deputy chief so will outrank all bar the captain, Philippe, who is a wise and experienced operator. Having endured the 'initiation' of being on the receiving end of a bucket of water as she leaves the captain's office, Bénédicte seems to settle in quickly, soon impressing her male colleagues during the exercise runs around the station. However, this honeymoon period is rudely ended when, after her first major call out to a road accident, it transpires that the team overlooked a casualty who had been thrown clear of a vehicle. As team leader it was her responsibility to check, and even though the conditions on the night were horrendous, with driving rain and a confused scene, this oversight plays heavily on Bénédicte, who offers her resignation. But Philippe refuses to accept it.

This incident hangs over the team after the family of the overlooked casualty, who is in a coma, makes an official complaint. With the future of the station under review, some of the team think Bénédicte's mistake could cost them their fire station, and one of them, Xavier, is openly hostile to the new deputy chief. This scenario having been established, we go on to see the team in action in a variety incidents, There's a grass fire, where Bénédicte narrowly misses being water-bombed by a support aircraft; the delivery of twins in the back of the emergency response vehicle; and the hostility of an angry crowd as the team attempts to extinguish a burning coach while under attack from improvised missiles. But it is when Bénédicte effectively saves the life of a seriously injured victim of domestic violence that Xavier finally comes to appreciate her qualities. Although by this time he has asked for a transfer, citing the discomfort of working with a woman, because of his 'prehistoric' desire always to want to protect her. Not quite the reason we were expecting, perhaps, but a much more palatable explanation than simple chauvinism.

This is not a film that will set the world on fire (sorry, I couldn't resist that !), but it's an honest enough story with some interesting characterisations. It only has a single splat on Rotten Tomatoes, whereas Allociné is more generous with 3.2/5 from the press, and 3.7/5 from audiences; which I think is a fair reflection.

As always, if you enjoy French films you probably won't be disappointed.

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