Michael Mason, a pickpocket living in Paris, steals a bag with a teddy bear in it. Not realizing the toy contains a timed bomb, he tosses it aside on a busy street. A few seconds later it explodes, killing four people. CCTV footage reveals Mason's face and the French police tag him as a terrorist threat. The explosion, although botched, was set up by a select group of the French Interior Ministry as a decoy so they can make a half billion dollar digital transfer from a bank (closed on French National Day) -- hence the title Bastille Day. In a separate CIA investigation the unruly agent Sean Briar discovers the real story behind Mason's "terrorist attack". The two men, on different sides of the law, collaborate to bring the corrupt members of the Ministry down.Written by
Director James Watkins said of the movie's opening rooftop chase sequence: "We wanted to showcase Paris in this scene, but also introduce our two heroes and have a sense of the world in which they're in. It's early on in the film, so we're not sure who we're supposed to be rooting for and the points of view shift. Do we want Michael to get away? Do we want Briar to catch Michael? That's the whole nature of their journey together, this constant push-pull and the sense of their being opposed to finding some commonality. In terms of the shooting the rooftop chase, I wanted it to have a real pace and reality to it, so we built rooftop upon rooftop in Paris. I didn't want to do it through visual effects, so the backdrop that you see is a real backdrop of the city of Paris. We went back to really old-school traditions of Harold Lloyd and saying okay, how can we cheat this. I wanted to get that sense of pace on the rooftop so it was important to create a set the actors could really run along. And I wanted the vertiginous sense of the danger, a sense of 'Wow, this is one hell of a drop!'." Not only is the chase scene an exhilarating piece of action, but it's also a pivotal moment in the characters emotional narrative." See more »
When the Police are entering the bank, between the main hall and the control room. As they walk behind the pillar, you can see the edit between shots. (The camera jumps slightly.) See more »
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.
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