Taking the conventions of Western films to different countries, time periods or political situations is hardly new, but when it’s done well, it never gets old. Far From Men, which transposes classic Western archetypes to the Algerian Civil War, is a terrific reminder of just that. It is simply a great, traditional Western. Based on Albert Camus’ short story ‘The Guest’ and boasting a pair of flawless lead performances from Viggo Mortensen and Reda Kateb, Far From Men is a quietly grand, beautiful film.
It is 1954, just after the outbreak of the Algerian war of independence, and Daru (Mortensen) is a schoolteacher in a remote area. One night a gendarme arrives with a prisoner in tow. The policeman warns Daru of the approaching Algerians, revolting against colonial rule. He forces Daru, an ex-army major, to take charge of the prisoner, Mohamed (Kateb) who, having killed his cousin, is to be transported to the city to stand trial. That journey forms the backbone of the elegant plot. This buddy movie dynamic is beautifully underplayed, but builds believably and touchingly to provide the film with enormous heart.