‘B’ for ‘Bastille’; ‘B’ for ‘B-movie’
Idris Elba plays “reckless and irresponsible” American CIA operative Sean Briar who is one step ahead of the French police in getting to the bottom of a fatal terrorist bombing in Paris. The apparent bomber is n’er do well pickpocket Michael Mason (Richard Madden, “Game of Thrones”, “Cinderella”) who gets more than he bargains for when he snatches the wrong bag from bomb-mule Zoe (Charlotte Le Bon, “The Hundred Foot Journey”). Teaming up as an unlikely duo, the two chase around (mostly drab) Paris locations to uncover the plot, pursued by well-connected ‘terrorists’, led by Rafi Bertrand (Thierry Godard), who actually have a much greedier ulterior motive.
There is really very little going for this film. The film is an uneasy mish-mash of the plots from Die Hard and (perm-any-one-of-five) recent Liam Neeson movies, laced with elements of Bourne. It all never quite gels into a satisfactory whole.
Not wishing to be controversial, but given Idris Elba’s undoubted star quality he should only really need to play to his potential to get a well-deserved Oscar nomination this year. Unfortunately, this is not the film that delivers him the material to show that, and he spends most of the film saying little (in a strangely Hackney-fied US accent) and looking broodingly ‘reckless and irresponsible’. Richard Madden fares little better, trying to wield some well-worn buddy-cop comedy lines that are neither convincing nor particularly funny. Rafi Bertrand (Thierry Godard) ends up looking like an uglier version of Ricky Gervais (I expect a retweet of this review from #rickygervais for that!) which is a bit difficult to get past to take his character seriously.
Giving a much better performance is the very attractive Charlotte Le Bon, who is by far the best thing in the film.
Clearly not the film-makers fault, but the movie (with a delayed release for obvious reasons) is a little too close to real-life comfort given the Paris bombings of November 2015: I suspect that as a result the bombing scene was probably edited down somewhat from its original cut in the interests of taste, which is no bad thing as it is an effective sequence for both the visuals and the sound mixing. The uneasy ‘West vs Islam’ undertone throughout the film’s story makes for queasy and unsettling viewing though.
Where the film clunks to the floor is in the paint-by-numbers storyline and dialogue. The fact that the film stoops to an exploitative opening shot of a naked accomplice (a barely – no pun intended – credited Stéphane Caillard) is a sign of what’s to come. Some of the scenes (particularly one with CIA boss Karen Dacre (Kelly Reilly, “Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows”)) are utterly predictable and others (like a sniper attempt to shoot Mason) so jaw-droopingly inept as to quash any sense of tension. The finale, featuring a Bastille Day storming of the fascist banking citadel single-handedly by Zoe, like some modern day Marianne, is pretty ludicrous.
The special effects budget is funded by the same banker as “London has Fallen” (i.e. inadequately) with some scenes such as the (otherwise exciting) rooftop chase lacking the authenticity of a Bond or a Bourne, and the use of what I thought was an obviously model helicopter at one point.
Direction is by James Watkins, a Brit who did the passably chilling “Woman in Black”. I feel vaguely guilty for rating it the way I do as the whole film smells of people trying really hard with the money they had available. Perhaps with a bigger budget it could have been better.
According to the film “the hashtags will push it over”. In that case, #bastilleday #avoid.
Fad Rating: Ff.