I think that this film is pretty good but it is very much akin to a BBC drama as opposed to a big screen block-buster. Like many of the other reviewers, I knew nothing of Ben Barka beforehand and credit is due for bringing this story to a wider audience beyond it's Franco-phone target.
The acting was terrific and if the first two thirds of the film are a bit confusing, the true significance of the disappearance of Barka is made clear in the final straights which also bring home the impact of this event over the next 10-15 years. In it's favour, the film is soaked in the feel of the 1960's and the jazz score is very much in the vein of earlier films such as "Lift to the scaffold." The period detail is very good and the lead actor, Charles Berling, excels in his role despite heavy-weights like Matthieu Almaric and Simon Abkarain (probably more familier from the exceptional "Army of Crime") also having parts in the film. At times, Berling comes across like a French Harry Palmer but the film pulls no punches with the fact that his character George Figon was tied up with the criminal underworld and his endeavours to produce a film dealing with the struggles of Third Worlds countries to throw of the yoke of the capitalist world reveal him to be hopelessly out of his depth. The opening credit make no bones that he too meets a sticky end. I would guess that the ability of the makers of this film were compromised by the little that is actually known about this incident and just how much the Frenech, Morrocan and American secret services were involved.
With all the ticks in the correct boxes this is a film that should merit five stars. However, the rating of Certificate 12 proves to be the give away. All the violence generally happens off screen and despite the main protagonist Figon being shown to be under almost constant surviellance, the element of menance is somewhat lacking. All in all, this is a fascinating story , especially as the mystery is still shrouded in secrecy but the exclusion of violence robs the film of a thorough appreciation as to what was exactly at stake as the process of decolonisation threatened to herald a global rise in communism. The film is not as hard hitting as it should have been.
The story is one that definately deserves to be told and the screenplay, acting and whole 1960's feel are extremely well done. However, I am mindful that had this film received the budget of something such as "Mesrine" or "La vie en rose", we would be talking about a major piece of French cinema. As it stands, this is an engrossing film yet of the level that the BBC often crank out effortlessly. In summary, definately an entertaining and rewarding film but this story deserves to be told in a far more incisive fashion.