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La 317ème section (1965)

In Vietnam, 1954, a French platoon isolated behind enemy lines tries to come back. It is led by the inexperienced, idealistic sous-lieutenant Torrens, and by adjutant Willsdorf, a WWII veteran of the Werhmacht.
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Storyline

In 1954, the Indochina War begins to come to a close following France's defeat by the Viet Minh at the deadly Battle of Dîen Bîen Phû. French forces are in full retreat and risk being overrun at every turn -- including the 317th Platoon, a unit of French soldiers and Laotian allies who are led by the idealistic but inexperienced sous-lieutenant Torrens and adjutant Willsdorf, a former soldier in the German Wehrmacht during WWII. Their survival depends on completing a trek through the dense, jungle-laden, expanse of enemy territory that stands between them and the safety of the nearest French outpost. Written by Dr. Jay Trotter

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Release Date:

31 March 1965 (France)  »

Also Known As:

317th Platoon  »

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1.66 : 1
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User Reviews

 
French-led platoon retreats from the surrounding Viet Minh
8 August 2015 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"La 317ème section" is a good war movie, worth seeing. It's about a platoon consisting of French and Vietnamese soldiers who are retreating from behind territory controlled by their opponents, the Viet Minh. The year is 1954 at the time when Dien Bien Phu has fallen and the Viet Minh are making a concerted drive to the south in Vietnam. The movie was filmed in Cambodia and looks real.

The challenges of surviving in the open in a hostile natural environment and a hostile wartime environment are brought out strongly. The platoon has wounded men. It has a lot of ground to cover to reach a safe position. It has limited ammunition, food and medical supplies. Its communications are shaky, and it's being pressed by the Viet Minh who outnumber them. The nature of the land, its beauty, and the way of life of the hapless villagers caught between warring sides, are all brought out nicely. Photographic work is excellent.

The platoon is led by a lieutenant (Jacques Perrin) who is inexperienced but well-trained. However, he's also aggressive in wanting to kill the Viet Minh and this results in the error of giving away the platoon's position, not once but several times. He cannot stand the idea of defeat and wants to get in his licks. Perrin is assisted by an adjutant or sergeant, Bruno Cremer, who is a German and experienced; but he must cooperate and follow Perrin's orders, however flawed.

This movie doesn't explicitly take sides for or against the war. It mostly shows it as it was, hewing close to the battles shown. They typically involve firepower launched from hiding places and ambushes as opposed to hand-to-hand combat. These are dangerous, taking their toll, and wearing down the opponents by attrition. Implicitly, one gets the feeling of the futility of the fight. The veteran Cremer remarks that the native people are natural or born fighters, as if to say that the Europeans are out of their element in this land. And he loves the land, likes the women, and contemplates settling there or in Cambodia when the war is over.

The main negative of the film is that it plunges us quickly into the platoon which has been geographically divided. We don't know who the characters are or to whom they are referring. We are not brought up to speed about these important foundations of the story. I was not able to sort out this confusion on a first viewing. Of course, the story gradually clarified enough to follow it; but I still don't have a full understanding of the initial disposition of people involved. I couldn't grasp all the places or match the names of all the characters with their faces.


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