I press play to watch our protagonist interrogate a suspected terrorist amid ongoing war, a scene that soon spirals into further disaster, and I quickly realize that Sentinelle (2021) is no light watch. This French military drama focuses on a woman’s search for revenge, a woman who battles post-traumatic stress disorder after her return from war. At only a short 80 minutes, the action keeps viewers on their toes.
Content Warning: Sentinelle tackles topics such as drug abuse, violence, sexual assault, and PTSD as our heroine hunts down a man who wronged her family.
French model and actress Olga Kurylenko plays Klara, a French Army commando who assists as an interrogation translator in the Middle East. After an ambush, Klara’s struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder begins. Because of the damage of the attack, Klara is sent home to Nice, France to work the calmer duties of domestic terror patrol, but given next to no time to recover. As her doctor began to suggest that she go to therapy rather than continue her medication for PTSD, she became addicted and got pills from illegal sources.
Though she feels defeated, her sister, Tania, (Marilyn Lima) is glad to have her home. Later that night, Klara and her sister go to a club to help Klara catch a break. The sisters both go home with someone, and when Tania doesn’t come home, it’s apparent that something went wrong.
When Klara sets out to kill the criminal who harmed Tania, it doesn’t take long to find the man in question. Klara is a veteran in ambush and interrogation, so once she spots her target, there’s no going back. Her spiral into delusional revenge creates even more problems across various countries and involves weapon theft, illegal drug purchase, tresspassing, and murder—and that’s just a few of the crimes. And the climax, the finale of the film? Well, it’s an absolute shock that you have to see to believe.
Sentinelle instills a mix of emotions. 80 minutes is not a lot of time to take in the variety of harsh subjects of violence, drugs, and crime, and I have certainly never seen an action or war movie of that length. Sentinelle delivers by keeping our eyes on Klara 24/7. Sure, we see a bit of the other characters, but they aren’t the center of attention. Each character helps the viewer see a different side of Klara and how her past and present struggles affect her. Changing who we are depending on whom we interact with or what we’ve been through is something we can all relate to, a thought-provoking quality of Sentinelle.
I appreciate an independent female hero that isn’t just a token addition to a group of men, a typical trope far too many action, war, and superhero movies are guilty of. This movie is unique not for its premise of revenge but for its war-veteran female protagonist. Although Klara has her fair share of struggles, it’s a refreshing change. She never hesitated to defend her family, and she was smart and resourceful. She may have gotten into some trouble along the way, but her fight for what’s right is admirable.
Sentinelle wasn’t a typical pick of mine, but I’m glad I watched it. War, sexual violence, mental illness, and more important narrative elements combine to forge Klara’s character. As much as the movie succeeds for how it showcases a heroine taxed by the conditions of war, it isn’t novel enough to deem incredible. I don’t think Sentinelle is the most unique or stunning movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s worth a watch for its new perspective and for how it’s sure to shock you from the first scene to the credits. Watch Sentinelle on Netflix to see for yourself.