(M) Directed by David Oelhoffen
Starring Viggo Mortensen, Reda Kateb

By Ben McEachen

Impeccably arty and handsomely fuelled by existential angst, this adaptation of an Albert Camus short story stars Aragorn, is set in the Algerian wildscapes, and has a Nick Cave/Warren Ellis score. Such grist for a cineaste's mill unites in Far From Men as a fine yet detached tribute to humane choices.

Viggo Mortensen is Daru, a French-Algerian teacher at a beautifully remote school in 1954. War for independence is on the horizon, yet it swiftly annexes when Daru is forced to escort to court an accused murderer, Mohamed (Reda Kateb).

Daru's conscientious objection to warfare is economically unveiled, as his brutal journey with Mohamed dripfeeds emotive conundrums. The sombre magnetism of Kateb gels with Mortensen's stoic aggravation, helping to ground director David Oelhoffen's contained attacks upon the morality of mortality.

What's missing, though, is the kick in the guts threatened by such perennial material. Despite being set in reality, poetic and poignant Far From Men can feel close to an academic exercise. Empathic distance results.

This review was first published in Empire magazine, August 2015. For more about Empire, click here.