It tells the true story of the Trappist monks at a monastery in Algeria that in 1996 got caught up in the local Civil War. The film revolves around the monks' tough choice to either risk their lives by staying or leave the monastery out of self-preservation.
Provides examples of:
- Apocalyptic Log: The final voiceover consists of Christian's testament, describing his view on the dangerous situation.
- As the Good Book Says...: A variation. Christian quotes The Qur'an when speaking to Islamic militant leader Ali Fayattia, establishing good faith between the two.
- Foregone Conclusion: As it's based on a true story. Seven of the monks were kidnapped and killed.
- Foreshadowing: Luc gives Amédée a health examination and concludes "You'll outlive us all." Amédée does indeed outlive all the others except one by evading capture.
- Kidnapped Doctor: The Islamic militants show up at the monastery intent on doing this. Christian manages to talk them out of it, and they later show up with one of their wounded instead.
- Leave the Camera Running: The camera has a tendency to linger on the beautiful scenery as the subject of the shot slowly disappears into the distance.
- Prisoner Exchange: The group that kidnaps the monks demands the release of some of their members by the French authorities in return for the safe release of the monks. It never comes to pass, and the monks are killed.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: Luc breaks out a cassette player and a tape of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake.
- Saintly Church: The French monks caught up in the Algerian civil war are like this. They've provided medical care and social services to their Muslim neighbors for decades, and are shown studying the Qur'an. When Islamist insurgents try to kidnap the doctor at gunpoint, the abbot insists that if they bring their injured comrades to the monastery, the doctor will provide care no questions asked. The monks are as good as their word. When an opportunity to flee the violence arises, they all refuse because the villagers need them and, after all, Jesus wouldn't run from violence. Almost all of them get kidnapped and killed.
- Scenery Porn: The film makes sure to show the beautiful landscape around the monastery.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Some text informs the viewer that seven of the monks were killed, one died 12 years later, and one was still alive as of the movie's making.