Saloum (2021)

A crisis is almost always scary. When I have a sudden departure from routine, it causes me great anxiety. This is the J for “Judging” in my personality type of INTJ (The Architect ooh la la). It causes me to be upset with changes in plans which is something I have had to work on in my life. Beyond that, when really bad things happen, it is hard to recover and go with the flow. When a real crisis hits, our fight or flight response kicks in. I am definitely a flight kind of guy myself when I’m not freezing up. I am sometimes envious of the rare people who can immediately jump into action, channeling that fight or flight into constructive activities. These are the people who become first responders. Everybody is scared in a crisis, some are just better at hiding it.

The desert is something that is somewhat foreign to me and therefore scary. I live on the east coast of the United States of America so deserts are just not something I see often. I do remember visiting deserts when my folks took us on trips to Arizona. We went a few times and it was wild to see. It was the kind of environment where it was drilled into me that I was to keep water on me and stay with the group or else. It can be a hard thing to fathom. I compare it to the first time I saw the ocean, something that is old hat to me now. It just keeps going. The idea of being out there, just like in the ocean, and having nothing terrifies me. It reminds me of that story I heard of people’s GPS devices leading them out into the desert so far that they ran out of gas.

The first thing I noticed was the excellent score that utilizes both traditional instruments and modern stylings as well. The music lent a sense of urgency to situations that already have urgency in war-torn Guinea-Bissau and the vast emptiness of Senegal. Scene transitions are announced by the gunshot sound, keeping me on my toes.  The cinematography is so beautiful, helped by wonderful landscapes and intimate locales. There are some very artistic shots in this movie that quite honestly took my breath away. There is a really excellent slow burn to this movie which I really enjoyed because it never dragged. Every moment left me wanting the next moment to come to solve the mystery. That mystery went to places that I was not prepared for and did not expect. The special effects are also really well done.

The movie is partly in French and partly in the tribal language of the Wolof. The three main actors have great chemistry together and I really liked their interactions. I also really loved the look of them, their interesting style as mercenaries who can dress as they wish. It is nice to have a charming cast to lean on in the non-scary parts so you care about them in the scary parts. There are also some really calm yet poetic scenes that are very intriguing. The rest of the cast is some sort of cooperative for artists and they are sassy and fun. The whole cast is made up of people I would want to have dinner and drinks with. The main character, played by Yann Gael, is especially good. He speaks volumes sometimes without saying a single word. 

Overall, I really loved this movie. It was surprising in a lot of ways. Although it had a lot of horrific moments and definitely kept me on the edge of my seat, it also felt very deep. It has a lot to say about African culture, specifically in the Senegalese region. The mythology was new to me but felt so solid. I was left saying “damn!” at the end of the movie. I recommend this movie.


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