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Forgotten battle told in 'The Siege of Jadotville'

A 1961 battle between a small U.N. force from Ireland and thousands of French/Belgian mercenary fighters tied to a ruthless Congolese leader is the basis for “The Siege of Jadotville,” a scrappy war flick with a fair amount of combat suspense but a whole lot of clichéd dialogue.

A proxy Cold War skirmish that represented the U.N.’s first peacekeeping operation, the six-day conflict has been largely forgotten by history. But director Richie Smyth and screenwriter Kevin Brodbin wring out a serviceably exciting tale of bravery and ingenuity in the face of doom, but they also spotlight the callous political leadership — represented by academic U.N. representative Conor Cruise O’Brien (Mark Strong) — that left an undermanned, outgunned group of inexperienced Irish soldiers led by a resolute commandant (Jamie Dornan) to stand their ground in a tiny compound without help.

Dornan’s antagonist is a French combat veteran (a reliably imperious Guillaume Canet) whose men fight for mining companies that Katanga Prime Minster Moise Tshombe (Danny Sapani) wants to protect from a growing nationalism in the new Republic of Congo.

Too bad, though, that once more, a story tied to the fate of African citizens is — save the few scenes featuring Tshombe — told entirely with white people.  (Who argues the locals’ viewpoint? A rich Belgian played by Emmanuelle Seigner.) “The Siege of Jadotville” valiantly fights to reclaim pride in a slice of Irish military history, but it seems to have ignored who those Irish were fighting for.

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‘The Siege of Jadotville’

Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes

Not rated

iPic Theaters, Westwood; and streaming on Netflix

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