Girls of the Sun is a men on a mission movie with a difference; the men are women. The story is fictional, but director and co-writer Eva Husson has taken as her inspiration an all-female group of Kurdish fighters struggling to defeat ISIS forces in their homeland in 2014.

They are led by Bahar (Paterson’s Golshifteh Farahani), who has lost her husband (killed), her son (abducted into child soldiery) and almost herself when she was sold into sex slavery. You can forgive her (and viewers) wanting a little old-fashioned vengeance, although as she tells the women in her battalion: “Your presence here alone is a victory.” And given that their ISIS adversaries assume death at the hands of a female will void their ticket to paradise, these women are doubly feared.

The audience stand-in is Mathilde, a war correspondent modelled on Marie Colvin (eye patch, gallows humour), who got her own biopic last year, played by Rosamund Pike. Here she’s French, and portrayed by Emmanuelle Bercot.

The film was pilloried by the press at Cannes when it premiered there last year, and it still languishes in the low 30s on rottentomatoes. But while it does little that is novel aside from the gender swap, and throws in a few say-what? coincidences, it remains a powerful story with a rousing finale, thanks in no small part to Morgan Kibby’s score, and the gorgeous, sunlight-in-dust cinematography.

The film is dedicated “To the ones forgotten by history by those who shape it.” Husson is determined to do her share of shaping.

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