Shake Hands With The Devil (2007)

(In theaters, October 2007) Enough earnestness can carry any film over rough patches, and so it is that the first act of this bio-drama about Canadian general Romeo Dallaire’s experiences during the Rwanda genocide is clunky beyond belief, filled with rookie screenwriter mistakes and graceless film-making. The good intentions are there, but the entire film feels strained and amateurish. This feeling dissipates as soon as the violence begins, and as the situation becomes as fragmented as the film itself. Roy Dupuis completely disappears into Dallaire’s role, and some scenes really stand above others in terms of impact. It doesn’t become a faultless film (the framing device in the psychologist’s office, in particular, isn’t particularly well handled), but it improves and eventually packs a heck of an emotional punch. It also becomes something of a purely Canadian film: not only is it naturally bilingual, but it tells the story of an enormous failure, the only comfort being that at least someone tried to do something. (Dallaire fires his weapon in anger only once, and it’s portrayed as a deeply wrong moment.) I’m not sure that an American version of the same story would have been so honest. Viewers familiar with the far better-handled Hotel Rwanda will nod in recognition at the point during which the two stories briefly converge.

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