Friday 29 April 2016

Film: 'Bastille Day'.

I saw this yesterday morning and have to say that the more I reflect on it the more my original opinion, which wasn't very high anyway, slips down still further.

Set in Paris on the eve of the annual French national celebration parade, the film boils down to a fairly basic 'good man v evil gang' thriller, though, admittedly, with one or two adrenaline-pumping moments. Trouble is that the best of them comes early on in the film - a rooftop chase with much slipping on the tiles and threats of plunging a long way down onto the concrete below. As a sufferer of vertigo (though not anything like as acute as some people's), this particular chase really got to me. That aside it was fairly routine stuff. 

Idris Elba is an ex-CIA operative who, with the sanction of French intelligence, attempts to find out who and what lies behind a bomb going off in a street which kills four bystanders. A terrorist attack is the initial suspicion but it turns out not to be what it at first seems, involving a young woman (Kelly Reilly) who hadn't realised the full extent of what she'd be drawn into, as well as the coincidental and unintentional participation of a 'professional' American pickpocket (Richard Madden). The latter had been identified on CCTV as the likely terrorist perpetrator and it's Elba who takes the lead in seeking him out. (Incidentally, all three of these are British actors, the two males playing Americans).
Meanwhile behind the scenes of this superficially enemy attack, there's a plot going to foment public disquiet and anti-Muslim feelings, using whipped-up demonstrations to hide a dastardly plan to perform a heist on French national gold reserves and thereby destabilise the government for, oddly, an amount which, I would have thought, would have had not much more than a flea-bite effect. 

With no desire to reveal spoilers let it be said that the true villains turn out not be so much of a surprise at all. We live in times when corruption in high places no longer shocks us, so that when the 'big reveal' takes place my reaction was a plaintive "So what?" rather than the intended jaw-dropping "Well, well! Who would have thought it!" response which we are presumably supposed to have.

It's a fairly violent film, though nowhere near as extreme as it might have been. But what unsettled me still more, even to the point of being near risible, was Elba's own invincibility. He comes out of each of his many physical conflicts (both with fists and guns) with individuals and gangs - 'baddies' and authorised armed forces following orders - without a single scratch. His own gunfire talents have unbelievably unerring accuracy of aim while those trying to stop him are hamfistedly hopeless, as if in a comic-book superhero caper. (Groundwork for Elba's possible - though, I think, unlikely - future Bond role?) 
The action here is close to being parodic in its depiction of good against evil. 
I also felt to be being cheated by some over-deft editing - Elba often jumps from one location on set to another so quickly that his movement is not caught on camera, and is certainly beyond the perception of his foes.

James Watkins, as director, gives us fairly standard fayre, though if one lets oneself be caught up in the moment I dare say it might pass as functionally successful. (I did quite admire his 'The Woman in Black' of 2012, which I thought superior to the stage version, of which I remained unimpressed).

My doubts about this film were coming to the surface even as it was playing, though I might at that time have given it a score of 'average'. As at now, I wish to knock it down a notch from that level, so I'd better get on with rating it before it sinks yet lower...............4.5.


  1. Still ... Idris Elba, though?
    I may see this one just for that!

    1. He's fine in this, Bob - though I did feel that he just HAS to playing it tongue-in-cheek. I find it hard to believe that he took the part seriously.

      Btw: In case there's any doubt about what I said, I'd be happy to see him as James Bond, but I feel that the essentially conservative film powers-that-be would be nervous about trying what they may well regard as a box-office risk for that iconic part. If they do I think they'd be wrong as those of average audience age are, I'd like to think, more progressively 'enlightened than they might have been one time.

    2. I agree with you about an Idris Bond; it's be good, he'd be good. But, you know, Bond is white, right?
      Time to open some minds.

    3. Exactly, Bob. It'd be nice to be a bit adventurous, which is what the character of Bond is all about. If Elba does do it then I only hope that the film is good. If it turns out to be a clunker then we can guess where the blame will be aimed.

  2. oh, what a let-down. I thought this was going to be a movie about the actual Bastille Day. I wonder if such a thing was done ever?

    1. Good question. My first thought was 'The Scarlet Pimpernel' but that's not about the day itself, but rather more the ensuing 'Reign of Terror', I think. As to the actual events leading up to the storming of the Bastille and "Let them eat cake" etc, I can't think of a single film. I wonder if there's a French one?