With its fortieth anniversary approaching in 2005, this astonishingly gritty film maintains its strong niche between Roberto Rossellini’s Open City and Paul Greengrass' Bloody Sunday as a pinnacle of war-torn neo-realist drama. Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo (who co-wrote with Franco Solinas), this Italian-Algerian co-production digs into the French-Algerian conflict between 1954 and 1960, as terrorists/freedom fighters from the Algerian National Liberation Front stage covert attacks upon the French colonialists, who are freshly rancorous following their failure in Indo-China. It drags in bits, but recovers with great intensity. And technically, it's stunning: Brilliantly staged conflicts segue via Ennio Morricone's haunting score, and the performances (particularly from Brahim Haggiag as a resistance fighter and Jean Martin as his determined opponent) are top-notch. So realistic is the footage -- the bombings, the tortures, the harrowing riot at the end -- that the filmmakers wisely offer a disclaimer that there's no documentary or newsreel footage involved. More important, though, is that the project's applicability to world events remains completely untarnished by time.