Sentinelle Synopsis: Transferred home after a traumatizing combat mission, Klara (Olga Kurylenko), a highly trained French soldier, uses her lethal skills to hunt down the man who hurt her sister.
Netflix’s wide net of content gets marked as a roadblock to cinema’s success on the big screen. While streaming’s growth has made the industry more unpredictable, services like Netflix provide a platform for projects often underrepresented by industry norms. Last year alone, the streamer released one of the year’s most prolific international films (Atlantics) along with a few other low-key success stories (Lost Bullet and Rogue City).
The streamer continues its inclusive streak with the French actioner Sentinelle. Featuring the assured talents of Olga Kurylenko as a recovering soldier, this no-nonsense twist on familiar genre trappings elevates above its low-rent peers.
For Kurylenko, Sentinelle should be a welcomed stepping stone into action stardom. The former Bond starlet commands the screen as Klara, imbuing the character’s rigid persona with much-needed gravitas. Where some action films turn their heroes into blankly stoic everyman, Kurylenko ably develops layers upon the character’s persona. Klara’s struggles with PTSD and grief are effectively sold despite insular frames coming few and far between. The star’s poise and capabilities allow the material to engage despite its genre limitations.
Sentinelle is certainly workman-like, but writer/director Julien Leclercq goes through familiar motions with craft and self-awareness. The filmmaker never forgets the genre pretenses he’s working under, constructing a hard-nosed actioner from his solemnly serious tonality. I really enjoyed Leclercq’s favoring of brutally intimate brawls, with his steady hand and inclusion of thoughtful stylistic choices enhancing the drama at hand (one of the few movies to use slow-motion without feeling tacky). His ability to keep a straight-faced presentation also prevents the material from drifting towards dated actioner mechanics. This isn’t a movie that glorifies its violence, rather using it as a tool to reflect Klara’s demons manifesting her revenge spree.
Sentinelle’s relentless 80-minute runtime keeps audiences engaged throughout. However, Leclercq’s effort rarely stretches past conventional norms. The screenplay happily goes through the motions without finding opportunities to subvert expectations. I admire a filmmaker knowing exactly the kind of film he wants to create, but his action would’ve flourished if intertwined with a delve deeper into Klara’s demons (the sister character is utilized as a careless plot initiator).
For better and for worse, Sentinelle sticks to its conventional action movie cards. Under Kurylenko and Leclercq’s hands, that limited approach still elicits an engaging yarn for audiences to untangle.
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