Bastille Day Review
A conspiracy to bring France to its knees.
CIA agent Briar has 36 hours to prevent another terrorist attack taking place in France on Bastille Day.Against the beautiful backdrop of Paris, sleight of hand genius Michael Mason (Richard Madden) works the streets as a pick-pocket taking specialist requests from designer watches to Japanese passports. One evening whilst enjoying a coffee and cigarette at a street cafe Michael notices a woman having an argument on her phone and while she’s distracted swipes her handbag in the blink of an eye. Unaware of the ticking bomb that's hidden within the bag, Michael takes the valuables and dumps the bag in the middle of the street.Caught on CCTV Michael becomes one of France’s most wanted for acts of terrorism which is when we are introduced to our hero, Sean Briar (Idris Elba), a CIA surveillance agent working in France. We learn that Briar is somewhat of a loose canon, often refusing to obey orders and frequently does things his own way. Tasked with the reasonably simple mission of tracking down Michael and bringing him in for questioning Briar sets out to find his man but discovers that the terrorist threat and Michael’s involvement are not as straightforward as it seems.
Marking this his third feature film, director James Watkins takes a different route from his previous horror thriller Eden Lake and slow atmospheric burner The Woman In Black. Packing action and suspense into his latest flick, Watkins manages to create something which could sit alongside the likes of the Bourne and The Transporter films with its conspiracy plots and action sequences. It may not be as slick or have an enormous budget but Watkins provides well choreographed action, filmed in a cohesive and very watchable manner. The fight scenes are pretty awesome and very entertaining to watch; one chase scene in particular between Briar and Michael is filmed over Parisian rooftops and really has the ability to place the viewer amongst the action.
Idris Elba employs much of his Luther character for this role, embodying the dark and mysterious qualities he plays so well. However, as Briar is part of the CIA Elba does have an American accent which I personally found a bit distracting as it always seemed to slip into that London accent we’re all familiar with. That said, Elba is good in this type of role, beefed up and badass. There could have been a bit more witty repartee between Briar and Michael perhaps, as the film almost built up to moments of humour but never quite got there.
An easy to watch thriller with plenty of action to keep the plot moving.
Richard Madden as Michael is good, he plays the part well but despite being a key figure in the plot frequently falls into the background leaving Elba to take a majority of the lime light and deservedly too. There is one scene where Michael works a bar to an almost domino like effect, while not entirely plausible, it was fun to watch. Kelly Reilly plays Karen Dacre, Briar’s boss within the CIA, also using an american accent but with much more believability than Elba. Canadian Charlotte Le Bon plays Zoe Naville, a woman who is involved with fundamentalists and finds herself mixed up with the wrong people and whose bag gets stolen by Michael.
Bastille Day is an easy watch with plenty of action to keep the pace moving throughout the film. There are also a few twists and turns which some might find predictable but might come as a surprise to others. It’s a relief that for a change the focus is all on the action without any irritating love interests or side stories getting in the way. In fact, there are very few moments in which you might ordinarily find yourself shouting at the screen. There is potential to link the content of the film with recent current events but I don’t think that it should be an overriding factor when viewing it.
Bastille Day is fairly simple, straightforward and watchable; if it wasn’t for its predictability I would have scored it slightly higher but as it is, the third act came as no surprise. There is a lot more which could be read into this film but for what it is, an action film that doesn’t require much thought starring Idris Elba, it is pretty good.
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