Since I was not able to attend the movie last night, here is my summary and opinion of the first hour and twenty-five minutes. In the beginning we see Mussolini in his “situation room.” There are maps on the walls and everyone is dressed in military garb. He is unhappy because the last 5 governors of the province of Cirenaica have failed at ending the violent (thought quite thoughtful and intellectual) rebellion lead by Omar Muhktar, a muslim intellectual who used to be a teacher. One of the generals, Rodolfo Graziani is chosen as the new governor of the rebellious province and Mussolini tells him not to fail because everyone else had and they are wimps. Graziani assures Mussolini that he will not lose, and then makes his way to Africa. It then cuts to a desert town where people seem free and happy. Some boys are getting a lesson in the Qur’an from a old man who we later find out is Omar Mukhtar. Mukhtar looks like a professor, with a pair of round spectacles, sitting cross-legged in front of a group of boys. While he is trying to give his lesson, a group of his soldiers return and the boys quickly lose concentration and are distracted by the music and dancing that is now taking place. Mukhtar also goes out to see what is happening, meeting up with one of his senior advisors and military leaders. They tell him that a new governor has been chosen and that his name is Graziani, a name that seems to carry some weight with the Muslim leaders because of his cruelty and brutality in war and with crushing rebellions. Mukhtar seems a little worried and decides to get his troops back together. He grabs his gun and supplies, and heads off with the other younger men.
There is a great big ballroom that reminded me of the scene in the Godfather: Part II when it is new year’s eve in Cuba and the rebellion starts. ANYWAY, everyone is dancing and having fun. Fans are spinning, people are eating and drinking. PARTICULARLY there is some super bad acting from the women who just do some stereotypically italian things and make weird faces. Graziani enters and everyone stops dancing and music comes to a record-scratching halt. Everyone sings a ridiculous song to Graziani and he comes in looking spiffy with his white suit and a dorky looking feather on his head, which makes him look more like a show horse than a brutal leader. Some crazy guy in the front starts to yell about Mussolini and everyone else joins in, but Graziani says, “chill bro, ladies are here. let’s just relax.” Graziani meets the guy that is apparently really good at negotiating and befriending the Muslims, but who later turns out to be a total bust and ruins the who negotiation process. The next day, they all discuss strategy and learn that more Italian forces have been defeated. Graziani is wicked pissed and decides to send out a force to kill Mukhtar. He is especially peeved when he learns that the forces that were defeated saw Mukhtar. Good for them.
ANYHOO, Graziani sends a bearded genrel who looks like Vladmir Lenin and sends him to a town in the desert. He rounds everyone up, takes a bunch of slaves, hits an old dude, kills a cripple, and burns half of the town’s food (total asshole). This is the last straw for one a young guy in the town and he throws a hissy-fit and marches off to join the rebellion and Mukhtar, leaving behind a grieving mother and a knocked-out grandpa.
Muhktar knows where the Italian Lenin will come through in the desert and sets a trap. He follows what he thinks is the whole Muslim force into the desert but IT’S A TRAP and he gets shot in the face. One young officer and a scout car and freed by Mukhtar and they return with the flag.
I think you get the point that I watched the movie, but feel free to ask me for anymore interpretations. I really loved this movie. Classic old-school war movie.