At a brisk eighty minutes, Julien Leclercq’s Sentinelle is the bare bones story of untapped rage and paranoia made all the more visceral by some compelling fight scenes and jumpy choreography in this French language revenge thriller. However that description merely covers the second half of a film that takes its time setting up its plot while saying close to nothing about its central character. Following traumatised soldier Klara (Olga Kurylenko) as she returns home to Nice after she is reassigned following a failed mission. Her happy reunion with her mother and sister is cut tragically short when on a night out, her sister is attacked and the suspects seem impervious to the law. What follows is a tensely shot, garishly violent chase film, one that never pulls its punches, having Klara take as much as she gives as some excellent sound mixing allows us to feel every punch and crash along the way.
However Sentinelle’s opening while effectively hollowing out Klara to the emotionally crippled husk Leclercq wants to convey, a PTSD suffering victim who rises back to a strong vigilante because of the love of family, goes on for far too long, with the film paying too much mind to extended sequences of Klara overreacting to situations and being triggered by unattended bags. It’s all very obvious and painfully so but the film continues to hammer this point home as this clearly unfit soldier is allowed to keep her job for the sake of clumsy plotting. The early demands she see a therapist are mentioned but never realised, instead allowing the film to wallow in the same feeling for almost half the film while only ever saying or doing one thing. Klara, in Kurylenko’s hands is more nuanced than the script allows for and in a more focused film it would be a impressive dramatic performance, here it feels incomplete. Never bad but just lacking in the affection her story deserves. Sentinelle for that reason is a muted mess when it isn’t allowing its main character to break bones and shoot things and although those thrills hit hard, it never makes up for the journey to get to them.