It is set during World War II, in 1941 and 1942 in Northern Africa. A commando of Free French Forces, led by Théo Dumas (Ventura) are stranded in the Sahara desert. They manage to kill a few German soldiers, take their jeep and make captain Stegel prisoner. They travel through German-controlled territory aiming to reach Allied territory while having to cooperate with their prisoner (in a situation that feels similar to Lifeboat).
The film is strongly anti-militarist and shows the absurdity of war.
- All Germans Are Nazis: Averted. Stegel's politics are not discussed, but he is mostly a nice guy (and doesn't show any sign of contempt when Goldmann says he is Jewish).
- Artistic License Military: Thomas Dumas is called bridadier by the other guys, but that is a land army rank and he is a marine. May be justified since the other guys are from the land army and the Free French Forces were made up of whatever forces were available.
- Bittersweet Ending: The film ends as the French are celebrating victory. Dumas seems quite bitter though.
- Central Theme: War is absurd. Successfully averts Do Not Do This Cool Thing as war is never showed in a fun manner (although this film isn't horrific).
- Conscription: Dumas, the most senior soldier among the French, started the war as a conscript.
- Dumb Is Good: As the crew is stranded with no water in the desert, the most intellectual guys want to sit and wait for death (averting a painful desperate walk) while the two most simple minded ones leave them and walk. They eventually join them, as one notices that (paraphrasing) "two sitting intellectuals won't go as far as one walking brute". The dumb ones are proved right when they find a German car with water.
- Idiot Ball: At some point the French soldiers let Stegel take the wheel of the car while they are all walking unarmed. May be justified due to stress and exhaustion.
- Tap on the Head: Suggested to happen off screen: as the French go through a German-controlled town, Stegel lies unconscious in the back of the car. It is suggested that Dumas knocked him down.