Movie Review: The Siege of Jadotville (2016)

The Siege of Jadotville (dir. Richie Smyth, 2016) – In 1961, Irish commandant Pat Quinlan led an army against mercenaries during a peacekeeping mission in the Congo.


A riveting true story. The little-known Siege of Jadotville gets a deserving tribute, if lacking in historical context.



In 1961, 155 Irish soldiers stood their ground on the battlefield against a 3,000-strong Kantangese army, backed by European mercenaries. Following the six-day siege and a month spent as prisoners-of-war, they suffered zero fatalities. If you have never heard of this extraordinary battle, you are not alone.

For decades, The Siege of Jadotville remained unwritten history. None of the young Irishmen were recognised for their military valour. Instead, they were humiliated with the term “Jadotville Jack”. This was invented as a derisive label for their forced surrender, a sensible move that was dismissed as cowardice.

It took 40 long years before the veterans were finally cleared of misconduct. This came nine years too late for Commandant Pat Quinlan, who died in 1997. The tragedy of which makes The Siege of Jadotville an especially powerful story and an essential watch.

The Siege of Jadotville
Cool guys don’t look at explosions.

Based on Declan Power’s significant historical book of the same name, the film finally shines a light on these exceptional young men. While inexperienced in warfare and thrown in at the deep end, they valiantly scraped the jaws of death and escaped being collateral damage to political warfare.

Director Richie Smyth stays respectful to the true events, honouring the unit behind the incredible combat. The result is a heart-pounding spectacle. Relentless assaults maintain the gravity of their predicament, even if the outcome is known. In this exchange of fire with no end in sight, the men impressively remain as stoic as they possibly can. 

Put through an actual training camp, the cast commits to bringing the company’s stories of courage to life. Standouts include the credible portrayals of tactical leader Pat Quinlan (Jamie Dornan) and company sniper Bill Ready (Sam Keeley). Their established personalities far exceed the remainder of the army, who settle for likeable banter on the sidelines.

The Siege of Jadotville
“Has anyone seen my bullet belt?”

Politics also fade into the background, playing second stringer to the tense war sequences. Most of the history is inferred through brief scenes between academic diplomat Conor Cruise O’Brien (Mark Strong) and Katangan president Moise Tshombe (Danny Sapani). While strongly acted by the pair, the screenplay paints the complex background in but broad strokes.

Such minimal context puts it below genre classics like Black Hawk Down or Saving Private Ryan, necessitating further reading of its richer source material. Still, it is understandable for the limelight to fall upon the Irish company, once so unfairly disavowed in an odious shame campaign. For these brave men, The Siege of Jadotville is a gripping tribute that their true heroics have always deserved. And it sure has been a long time coming.

15 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Siege of Jadotville (2016)”

  1. Absolutely incredible story, huh? Only recently found out about the whole thing. Incredible.

    I have the flick on my list, but haven’t gotten around to watching it yet, but I know I need to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it is! So glad this buried part of history is finally getting the attention it deserves. Can’t wait till you get to see the film, J! 😀


  2. I watched and reviewed this one a couple of weeks back and absolutely loved it. I am always surprised that there are so many historic events that one has never heard of before. This ofcourse being one of them. Truly unbelievable the things this company went through, and still being able to survive against all odds. These guys were true heroes that is for sure. This was a great review that I highly enjoyed reading. Always nice to see a movie that I myself loved as well, get such a well written post. Keep up the great work 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do remember someone writing about it just a while ago; that might have been yours! I absolutely agree on the forgotten stories, and am glad someone has brought these to the big screen. History is just so endlessly fascinating and compelling. Thanks much for the kind words, Michel! Always fantastic to read your reviews as well. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This has been on my watchlist for quite a while. I will get round to it, and I am glad to have some of the historical context from your post. When I get a chance I will check it out

    Liked by 1 person

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