Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Review: Bastille Day

Bastille Day
Cert: 15 / 92 mins / Dir. James Watkins / Trailer

I know what you're thinking, because I was thinking that too. "What's that? A terrorist-plot in Paris and only one wry, laconic American cop with the unlikeliest of sidekicks can save the day? Why is Idris Elba on the poster of what's clearly a Liam Neeson film?". Well, you can relax. This isn't the Liam Neeson film I feared it would be. Although it is very much the Bruce Willis film I'd have been fearing before Neeson stuck his foot in the door of the genre. There have been several movies in recent years billed as 'Die Hard in the [Insert Building Name Here]', but none have borrowed quite so liberally and transparently from the format as James Watkins' Bastille Day. So it's a good job that the film is quite enjoyable really, isn't it?

Yes, it was as much of a shock to me as it no doubt is to you, dear reader, when I found myself chortling and wincing along with Elba and Richard Madden as they speed around the back streets of Paris trying to unravel a thoroughly unfeasible conspiracy woven through anarchists, security forces and weaponised hashtags*1. The film begins with some interesting ideas (particularly in today's climate) on social unrest and political agitation, which are handled fairly well if not particularly delicately. But by the time that naive-hustler Mason (Madden) and gruff-cop Briar (Elba) have joined forces to track down naive bomb-mule Zoe (Charlotte Le Bon) and Save The Day™, the whole thing descends into a sort of reliable silliness.

Which isn't to say that the film is particularly playful with its subject, but as the script goes on you become aware that you're not watching a political-thriller, you're watching an action-flick. It's just nice to see issues of xenophobia handled without resorting to... well, xenophobia, frankly. It would have been easier for the script to take a far more mean-spirited approach to the plot mechanics. That it doesn't works in its favour, enormously.

But back at surface-level, Idris Elba gives good screen-time and has a comfortable chemistry with Richard Madden. Charlotte Le Bon's character feels a little under-used, but nowhere near as much as Kelly Reilly's back-room CIA agent. On the other side of the dramatic fence, Thierry Godard and José Garcia twirl their moustaches effectively enough, while almost everyone else is a character-archetype. But it's really that sort of film, so no major harm done.

Bastille Day isn't going to win any awards, but nor is it going to raise many hackles, either. Remarkably good fun, considering the content, but you can get back to the actual Acting™ now Idris, yeah?

Oh, and extra points for getting British actors Idris Elba, Richard Madden and Kelly Reilly to affect American accents for the entire film. They're unsteady, but passable enough (which is more than can be said for...); there's just no need for them other than the plot deciding that the characters should be American for plot-reasons. I don't believe I've ever written this before (certainly not in relation to an action-movie), but is there a shortage of US actors? That said, I am genuinely thankful that French performers appear to have been cast for the French roles (although by all means pick me up if I'm wrong on that).

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
All Of The Car Chases and All Of The Shooting™.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
As much fun as I had, it's a bit of a £5 DVD, if I'm being entirely honest.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Just about, yeah.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Not really, but I don't think it's meant to be.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't. Which is ridiculous in a film like this.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Bastille Day stars James Cox, who performed stunt-work in The Force Awakens and the upcoming Rogue One. And sure, he's a 'stunt' actor, but he actually plays someone named "Pierre" in this, which is more than most of the incidental cast get. Yeah, I'm looking at you, Caolan McClafferty aka "French Vegetarian". Honestly, who's going to put that on their CV? Not Caolan, I'll wager.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…
^^ That's a five because I enjoyed it, mind you, not because it's particularly good ;)

*1 No, for real. At one point, a bigwig in the 'baddies' organisation looks at the imminent rioting on TV and says "They're ready to go... the hashtags will tip them over!", which is fucking priceless. It's a level of Da*ly Ma*l techno-paranoia that does the film absolutely no favours, but it made me laugh out loud, and at least it's not a major plot point. That said, the phrase "digital currency" rears its head about half an hour later, but is handled by the script as if no-one really understands Bitcoin enough to go any further. Thankfully.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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