It seems everyone – or at least two of the front runners – with even the slightest chance of becoming James Bond when Daniel Craig eventually hangs up his Walther PPK, is currently featuring in some form of crime / espionage thriller, in what amount to virtual auditions for the 007 role. Tom Hiddleston recently flexed his credentials on the small screen, to wide acclaim in the hit BBC adaptation of John le Carré’s international crime drama The Night Manager. Now it’s fellow Brit Idras Elba’s opportunity to do the same in the high octane action film Bastille Day.
Michael Mason (Richard Madden) is a young con-artist, who thinks life is bad when he finds himself down on his luck and living in Paris. That, however, is before he inadvertently becomes involved in a criminal plot to bring chaos to the streets of the European city. Now with the French police, as well as American intelligence, on his case, he discovers his only hope to clear his name may lie in joining forces with ex-CIA agent Sean Briar (Idris Elba). And that’s when his troubles really start.
Where Hiddleston was suave and sophisticated in The Night Manager, in Bastille Day Ilba goes more for the all-out, down-and-dirty, action man: virtually from the word go his character Briar is ready to bash, kick and pulp anyone or anything stupid enough stand in his way. This, though, is all that is really required of him in the role. By the nature of the film there is not much call for character development: as a result the viewer discovers very little background about those people involved in the action – from Elba’s Briar to Madden’s lovably roguish, con-artist Mason. This lack of depth though is of little consequence for a film where all that is really required of the characters – both good and bad – is to run around and avoid getting killed, whilst trying your best to eliminate everyone else you come across.
The main draw back with the film is the appropriateness of its subject matter, during such a sensitive time in our real world. One of the key action sequences, which takes place shortly after the film starts, bares alarming similarities to the recent atrocities which took place in real-life Paris. Though clearly the incident in the film arises from different circumstances to those which have been happening in Europe recently, the scene does shock and only those completely insensitive could fail to be taken-aback to some degree. There are also other situations with pepper the proceedings that some may question as to their legitimacy in the name of entertainment, especially given the state of the world in which we currently live. Equally one could argue that someone will always find something offensive in most films, and as a result you can never please everyone. Also, as the film in no way condones the violence which takes place, it is on the whole easier to accept, particularly when seen in the context of what is happening in the film’s storyline.
Shot in Paris and Île-de-France, the authentic locations lend a degree of realism – both beautiful and grimy – to a film, which at a mere hour and a half in length, is hardly given time to catch its breath let alone be in danger of boring its audience. Bastille Day also gives you plenty of bang for your buck, which is, after all, what viewers of this kind of fare are ultimately looking for.
Director: James Watkins
Writer: Andrew Baldwin
Stars: Idris Elba, Richard Madden, Kelly Reilly, Charlotte Le Bon, Anatol Yusef
Runtime: 92 mins
Country: France / USA
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