A Few Days In September - DVD Review

'implications just aren't expanded on enough, if at all really, rather they are just used as a reason why Nolte's character has to creep about in the shadows'

I don't necessarily have a problem with films that are set at times of major world events but don't have anything to say about said events. Jarhead, for example, I find myself coming back to over and over again yet it has next to nothing to say about the first Iraq war on a political or moral level. A Few Days In September is a different case. AFDIS uses a major event (9/11) to facilitate its plot, suggests a fairly controversial theory about the events of that day but then fails to pass any comment on the implications of its own theory. It's a theory and an event that's only there to move the plot forwards. In 2009 I'm not sure I'm OK with that. In 2007 I think I would of been even less so.

AFDIS revolves around Juliette Binoche's spy-or-is-she-really Irene who is asked by mysterious old acquaintance (and crucially, government employee) Elliott (Nick Nolte) to round up his two offspring (Sara Forestier and Tom Riley) and bring them to meet him. At the same time, Elliott is trying to deal sensitive information about an event to happen in a matter of days to a group of wealthy bankers whilst trying to stay out of the way of another old acquaintance (John Turturro) who is trying to kill him.

And hopefully that says enough about the implications the film quite deliberately makes without me needing to spoil them too much. Suffice to say, these implications just aren't expanded on enough, if at all really, rather they are just used as a reason why Nolte's character has to creep about in the shadows, always just off camera. This did give me, personally, a real problem and prevented me from liking AFDIS on a lot of levels. The reaction that people have to it will depend on a number of factors (including their reading of the plot, which may be different from mine) and as such, I'm sure the film makers realised they were taking a bit of a gamble which might prove a divisive issue. Perhaps then, it's not fair to judge solely on this.

Which, at least at the start, bodes well for the film. There are a couple of relatively tense scenes to kick things off, featuring some nice direction on what was obviously a limited budget by Santiago Amigorena. Unfortunately though, as soon as our central trio get to their final destination, the film really has nowhere to go and gets bogged down in awkward Hamlet-like subplots, all Oedipal and Ophelial complexes - Freud would have a field day with this bunch of characters. It's an added layer of depth that simply wasn't needed for a plot that (although I had problems with it... did I mention that already?) would function without.

It's also not helped by some poor acting. Binoche anchors it well but is much more comfortable in French than she is in English. Forestier provides good support but Riley and Turturro really don't. Riley's jock-lite all-American boy doesn't suit either the tone of the film or Amigorena's style and he constantly seems completely out of place whenever he's surrounded by the other two. Turturro meanwhile plays a guy with more than a few screws lose who reads poetry and calls his psychiatrist every time he kills someone. It's another hopelessly misjudged character of the sort Turturro plays all too often these days to remain blameless. Striding around quoting the bard, he feels about as threatening as a paper cut and is another example of poor expansion with at best muddy motives for his actions. Even if you can get past the morally awkward plot, the performances here just aren't good enough to make this any better than average.

Look Further...

Over at A Life In Equinox, Ryan had an article that was featured on the IMDb hit list not so long ago discussing the difference between films that are about war and films that are set during a war. It follows a not too dissimilar line of argument to some of the above.


  1. I saw this back in 2007 and didn't think much of it then. My memory is a bit hazy now but it felt muddled and the main woman character never convinced me of her sincerity.

  2. One of the most forgettable films I've ever watched. Case in point: I can remember hardly anything about the core plot.