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Wolf's Call, The

French film (2019; original title Le Chant du Loup). Pathé, Trésor Films, Chi-Fou-Mi Productions, Les Productions Jouror. Directed and written by Antonin Baudry. Cast includes Paula Beer, Jean-Yves Berteloot, François Civil, Reda Kateb, Mathieu Kassovitz, Alexis Michalik, Omar Sy. 115 minutes.

Savant "acoustic warfare analyst" Chanteraide (Civil) hesitates in a tense confrontation Under the Sea between his submarine and an unknown vessel off the coast of Syria, endangering the lives of the rest of the crew. Furloughed on land, he investigates the mystery sub's distinctive audio signal, eventually determining that it is a vintage Russian design long since deleted from French digital records. Refused his new posting after failing a Drugs test, Chanteraide proves to be of critical value to the French navy in identifying a nuclear missile launch as a false-flag attack by jihadists. However, his former commander Grandchamp (Kateb) has already received an irrevocable order to launch a counter-strike, leading to Chanteraide's co-option into the crew sent to stop him at all costs.

Set the day after tomorrow, this French hommage to the works of Tom Clancy – specifically The Hunt for Red October (1984) – is deeply invested in audio, not only in its protagonist's quest to identify unique "spectral harmonics", but in its story-telling, which confines a Future War scenario almost entirely to snatches of overheard background dialogue. Russia has invaded Finland, the USA has recused itself, and only plucky France dares to send a naval squadron to the Baltic. The French are hence ready to believe that an incoming ballistic missile, launched from Russian waters, is the opening salvo of World War Three, leading to a mid-film pivot recalling the stand-off in Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1963). This entire backstory, however, which would surely form the A-plot in any Hollywood action movie, is largely ignored. So, too, is any resolution of two other prospective plots – that jihadists have control of a military submarine, and that said submarine may have been sold to them in a CIA sting operation that went wrong.

Instead, Antonin Baudry's script sets up a "blue-on-blue" showdown between two French submarines in a self-destructive battle designed, with knowing irony, not to save French lives, but to prevent the immediate deaths of millions of the supposed "enemy" in Russia. This is but one of the quirky attitudes adopted towards action-movie tropes, another of which is the weaponization of data management, in which the enemy exploits the archiving policies of French military intelligence in order to cause a rogue submarine to be re-categorized as a Russian vessel. But it is the film's love of sound that distinguishes it, from the titular "wolfsong" (a haunting sonar broadcast), to Chanteraide's decryption of his boss's Computer password solely through the use of audio cues, through to the fact that his escape from the submarine costs him (presumably temporarily) his hearing. Sound even supplies one of the film's deadpan comedy moments, as the Admiral (Kassovitz), frantically trying to prevent the End of the World, is put on hold while trying to reach the French President on the phone, subjecting the occupants of a nuclear bunker to a brief interlude of jaunty Muzak. [JonC]

see also: Occupied.

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Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 21:35 pm on 25 May 2024.
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