In 1954 Algeria, war veteran Daru (Mortensen) teaches local children at a desolate schoolhouse. With the bloody Algerian Revolution under way, Daru is commanded to accompany Mohamed (Kateb), an admitted murderer, to nearby Tinguit for trial by the French. Daru refuses, but is drawn into protecting the Arab when his enemies come looking for him. Journeying across the mountains together, the two men must face French soldiers as well as Arab rebels in their quest to stay alive.
This gripping film, based on Albert Camus’ short story “The Guest”, delivers a tale of moral conflict with a revisionist Western palate. The barren, rocky outcrops of the Atlas Mountains echo the expanse of the American West as these two men, thrown together by chance, proceed on their hazardous journey. Mortensen is equally at home with his French and Arabic dialogue, and gives a performance of quiet intensity. The soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis adds to the tension, as a good man is drawn into an impossible dilemma in this slow-burn award winner.