BASTILLE DAY (France | USA/15A/92mins)
Directed by Gavin Hood. Starring Idris Elba, Charlotte LeBon, Richard Madden, Kelly Reilly, Anatol Yusef.
THE PLOT: Michael Mason (Richard Madden) finds himself under suspicion of planting a bomb in Paris, but when he proves to CIA agent Sean Briar (Elba), that he is merely a talented pickpocket, the two team up to stop more attacks and uncover the motivation behind chaos being caused in Paris on the run up to their national holiday, Bastille Day.
THE VERDICT: There have been rumours for a long time now about Idris Elba taking over the role of James Bond in the long running film franchise, and although it now seems that the rumours are nothing more than that, ‘Bastille Day’ proves that the actor is more than capable of taking on an action role, even if the rest of the film is not filled with exciting performances or a script that makes sense.
As mentioned Idris Elba is strong in the role of CIA agent Sean Briar, he easily takes on the action sequences and makes them thrilling, while also creating an imposing and threatening character. However, Elba is never truly given a chance to create a fully rounded character, and although we are given plenty of back story to the character, this is more used to set up the rest of the film than form a full character. The same goes for Richard Madden as Michael Mason; Madden never truly gets a chance to make the character anything other than a charming pickpocket, and we never get a real sense of the character. That said, it seems that Charlotte Le Bon as Zoe gets the rawest deal of all; the character makes choices throughout the film that son’t make much sense and are not in keeping with the person we see on the screen. As well as this, Zoe often changes her mind and her attitude, quickly throwing in with whomever seems the strongest at the time. Kelly Reilly, José Garcia and Anatol Yusef suffer similarly, being little more than vehicles for exposition.
Andrew Baldwin’s screenplay tries to make ‘Bastille Day’ an engaging thriller that doesn’t rely on the usual tropes of terrorism, but by the time the villains’ true motivations are revealed, the film is littered with misdirects and odd choices, that does not make this revelation so much of a twist than an uninteresting swerve that again, makes little sense. In fact, the set up for the film works fairly well, but motivations and revelations are weak and unengaging throughout.
As director, James Wadkins does well with the action sequences, making them fast paced, breathless and thrilling,. But the same does not apply for the more slowly paced, dialogue heavy scenes. The twists are obvious from the start, and although Idris Elba’s performance is strong, the same cannot be said for the rest of the cast, who struggle throughout the film
In all, ‘Bastille Day’ tries to be an engaging thriller that quickly turns expectations on their heads, but the cast struggles with a scattered script, and although the action scenes are strong, the resolution of the film feels as though it would not be out of place in a 1970s sitcom.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Bastille Day
Review by Brogen Hayes
  • filmbuff2011

    There’s not a huge amount about Bastille Day that’s actually French, but what it is though is a moderately cracking crime thriller supported by a great double act at its heart.

    Michael (Richard Madden) is a petty thief and low-level criminal in Paris who likes to pickpocket tourists and other unsuspecting people when they’re not looking. He gets more than he bargained for one night when he nicks a bag belonging to Zoe (Charlotte Le Bon). She’s actually a terrorist who was supposed to plant a bomb in an apparently empty political party building. She gets second thoughts, which is when Michael unsuspectingly steals her bag. Not knowing that there was a bomb in it, he tosses it away and four people are killed as a result. Former CIA agent turned anti-terrorist operative Briar (Idris Elba) is soon hot on his tail and captures him. However, he starts to believe Michael’s story – but he’ll only accept it if Michael works to expose the terrorist ring. This unlikely pair are thrown together as they soon have to fend off attacks from dirty cops and the terrorists, who are stoking anti-Government sentiment in advance of the annual Bastille Day parade…

    With the horrific 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris still fresh in people’s memories, is it too soon for a film like Bastille Day? That’s the initial feeling of this reviewer, but fortunately Bastille Day isn’t really a film about terrorism. Shot in autumn 2014, it’s a rather different beast. It’s more about criminal opportunism, in the same way as Die Hard. It’s basically a man-on-the-run story, though not quite the Hitchcockian innocent man. Michael is a charismatic character who can talk his way out of a situation, but he meets his match in Briar, a mountain of a man who is blunt enough to shoot the hostage when required. Madden and Elba play off each brilliantly here – their chemistry and knowing sense of humour about each other is the best thing about the film. That’s boiled down to one scene in which Michael and Briar are in an elevator and Michael asks for a gun. The look on Madden’s face is priceless.

    Director James Watkins’ (Eden Lake, The Woman In Black) stages some pretty good action and chase sequences throughout. He keeps the plot rolling at a fast pace and the film doesn’t overstay its welcome at a tight 92 minutes. Andrew Baldwin’s script is well-written but gets a little too bogged down in the actual mechanics of the story – that of not knowing who to trust as everyone seems to be out to kill Michael and Briar (we already saw that recently in London Has Fallen). The police corruption sub-plot is under-cooked as a result, with French characters only given basic motivations rather than three-dimensional ones. Still, there’s a lot of fun to be had with Bastille Day if you go in with moderate expectations. As long as Madden and Elba are up for it, a sequel wouldn’t be unwelcome. ***

  • emerb

    Not surprisingly “Bastille Day” had a delayed release following the Paris attacks last year. This action-packed thriller has now arrived to our screens. It stars Idris Elba as Briar, a tough but reckless and irresponsible CIA field agent, and Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) as Michael Mason, a small time con-artist, who are forced to team up to take down a terror plot in Paris.

    Michael Mason is an expert American pickpocket living in Paris. He steals passports, accessories and smartphones at major tourist hot-spots to fulfil orders for middleman Baba (Eriq Ebouaney). During a scouting mission, Michael spies a young activist, Zoe Naville (Charlotte Le Bon), in a state of distress. She isn’t paying attention to her shopping bag, so Michael swipes it when her back is turned. Little does he realize that there was, in fact, a bomb concealed in a teddy in the bag, and when it detonates Mason finds he has unwittingly killed four
    innocent people. Mason’s face is caught by security cameras and soon broadcast to the nation. US operative Sean Briar, who is assigned to the CIA station in Paris under Karen Dacre (Kelly Reilly), soon tracks him down and gets to him before an elite French SWAT team led by Rafi (Thierry Godard). Briar soon realizes that Michael is just a pawn in a much bigger game and is also his best asset to uncover a large-scale conspiracy and so recruits him to track down the source of the corruption. With growing unrest in the city and distrust between American and French agencies, the pair find themselves working as a team on the run as they must find the bag’s original owner and uncover the real perpetrators of the violence before the city’s Bastille Day celebrations begin. This leads to thrilling chases around Paris between Briar, Michael and Rafi and even Zoe is enlisted to help as they gradually realize that the baddies, are motivated not by religion or even politics, despite first impressions. Meanwhile, the bombers plan their next move, creating a public relations nightmare for the embattled French Minister of Homeland Security, Victor Gamieux (Jose Garcia).

    Directed by James Watkins (The Woman in Black, Eden Lake), “Bastille Day” is your typical gritty action flick and doesn’t stray far from that. I liked that it was shot on location in Paris and London, , aerial views of Paris are continually inserted to add scope and exploit the city’s natural photogenic qualities and this
    adds an element of authenticity. The action pieces (performed by the actors
    themselves) were superb. My two favourite were a thrilling rooftop pursuit of Mason by Briar and a brilliantly staged fight sequence between the pair and the bad guys in the back of a riot van. On the downside, some of the plot points seem to get lost and in the end it all works out too conveniently for our heroes. There is little in the way of CGI but the cast is strong. Richard Madden gets his time to shine but the film ultimately belongs to Elba who effortlessly copes with the physicality of the role and is a surly, muscular presence at the centre of every action scene. Having said that, he wouldn’t be my choice for the next Bond, I don’t think he has the same magnetic and suave presence as, for example, Tom Hiddleston would. But hey, who am I to judge? I felt that some characters, such as Kelly Reilly as CIA handler Karen Dacre, weren’t sufficiently developed. I really enjoyed this film, there are some genuinely thrilling twists to keep you engaged, the fast pace keeps the momentum going and there are a few laughs too – well worth a look.