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Series / No Man's Land (2020)

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No Man's Land (2020)
No Man's Land is a 2020 French-Belgian-Israelian miniseries produced by German-French broadcaster Arte and Hulu.

It is set in 2014 in France and Syria. The protagonist Antoine from Paris watches a video of a bomb attack in Syria where he suddenly spots a woman, who reminds him strongly of his sister Anna, who he presumed dead.

In a series of retrospects it becomes apparent that Anna had stopped contact with her family and Antoine still blames himself for it. In order to find her, Antoine travels to Syria and quickly becomes stuck in the frontline between the Islamic State and Kurd YPJ troops. He becomes a prisoner of the YPJ, but later joins them as a fighter and starts a romance with the YPJ fighter Soraya.

In another storyline, a group of three British citizens, Nasser, Paul and Iyad, is shown who voluntarily join IS. One of them, Nasser, is a spy for the mysterious Stanley, who attempts to gather information about the movements of IS.

Not to be confused with No Man's Land, the critically acclaimed and Oscar rewarded movie from 2001.

This series provides examples of:

  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Once in Syria, Antoine doesn't take long to forget his girlfriend in Paris and romance the YPJ soldier Soraya.
  • Amazon Brigade: The YPJ predominantly consists of female fighters like Soraya or Commander Adar.
  • Arranged Marriage: It's the Islamic State after all. Iyad marries a French citizen whose old husband was killed in combat. When Iyad himself is killed, Paul asks the local Emir to marry his widow.
  • Big Bad: The Islamic State and especially their Libyan commander of war.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Antoine found his sister, but can't tell anybody that she's alive. Anna herself is back to working with Stanley, the guy who made her fall into misery in the first place. Antoine's new love interest Soraya is critically injured and sent to France, where he returns to as well - safe and uninjured, but with the secret service on him.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The YPJ and Antoine himself do horrible deeds, but it's always apparent that IS is much, much worse.
  • Decapitation Presentation: Nasser is forced by the Emir to cut off the head of the dead European to stream it live on camera.
  • Deal with the Devil: Both Nasser and Anna are driven into desaster once they started working with Stanley. His actions directly caused their downfall, and he shows little to no remorse for it. By proxy, Gilia, whose work with Anna got her and her husband tortured and killed by the Iranian secret service.
  • Descent into Addiction: After they joined IS, Iyad gets hooked on a drug that appears to be Methamphetamine, and he quickly descends downwards.
  • Double Agent: In the last episode, this is what Nasser presumably ends as, given that Paul exposed his connection to Stanley, and the latter didn't suspect anything.
  • Driven to Villainy: After his explusion from the British army, Nasser tried to live a peaceful life - until he was pressured into joining their friends to IS by Stanley.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Paul cares deeply about his son in the UK and tries to bring him to the Islamic State so they're united.
  • Faking The Death: When the Iranian secret service attempt to murder Anna, Stanley fakes her death by putting an already dead woman behind the wheel of the car before it got bombed.
  • Fate Worse than Death: A young European woman is captured by an unnamed IS soldier. Nasser first shoots the soldier and then her - because he knows that being captured by IS is far worse than dying.
  • Forced to Watch: After their column was attacked and defeated by YPJ troops, Nasser is helpless on the ground and forced to watch Iyad get killed.
  • Former Regime Personnel: Nasser was in the British army and this is why Stanley hired him, as he suspected he might get promoted quickly.
  • Grass is Greener: Nasser, Paul and Iyad, who join the IS.
  • The Illegal: In the past, Anna had an Iranian boyfriend who fled the country to France because he was part of the Green Movement. However, his asylum request was denied so he stayed in France illegally. After his deportation, he was executed in Iran.
  • Mistaken Nationality: Played for drama. Nasser spys for Stanley in order to get an amnesty from the British government for him and his friends. Stanley is not British though. He is Israeli and works for the Mossad, so he cannot grant them immunity.
  • Now, Let Me Carry You: Happens when Soraya Gets mortally injured in battle. After she guided Antoine as much as she could before, now he carries her to safety.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted for drama. When Antoine finally reaches the YPJ headquarters, He finds a Swiss woman who took the same fighter name as his sister, Sharanah. That leads him to believe that his sister was never here, which later turns out to be false.
  • Plot Hole: The IS commander tells all his soldiers that they will not go to paradise and not be revered as a martyr if they are killed by a woman. In the end, Iyad is killed by a woman, but still all characters talk about him as a big martyr.
  • Shoe Phone: Stanley hides the communication device for Nasser in a Quran, as he rightfully assumes that he will be able to carry it everywhere without suspicion.
  • Suicide Attack:
    • In one fighting scene, the YPJ troops were scattered by an unsuspected suicide bomber.
    • When Stanley assumes that Nasser's spy Quran was tampered with, he suspects that Nasser will be sent as a suicide bomber to him, so he tries to defy this by having Nasser dress down naked to check for any bomb belts. He was right about his suspection, but this was not how they planned to kill Stanley.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: The entire YPJ, but most clearly Soraya. She has high moral beliefs and arguably fights on the good side - And yet she doesn't hesitate for one second to shoot a group of defeated, unarmed IS soldiers that are lying on the ground.
  • Terrible Trio: Nasser, Paul and Iyad. Subverted, as Paul shows at least some shades of decency, while Nasser is a spy.
  • Turn to Religion: Happened to Paul in the backstory. As a kid of ethnic British parents, he was probably raised Anglican or Agnostic/Atheistic, but he converts to Islam, the religion of his friends Nasser and Iyad.
  • When You Coming Home, Dad?: Near the end, Nasser enables Paul to see his son via video call. The kid asks this question to his dad.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: This is what caused Nasser to be thrown out of the military. When he was in Afghanistan, a child approached him and his comrades with a knive in his hand, but he didn't shoot him against explicit orders.