D: James Watkins. DP: Tim Maurice-Jones. W: Andrew Baldwin. Starring: Idris Elba/Richard Madden/Kelly Reilly/Charlotte Le Bon/José Garcia/Anatol Yusef/Thierry Godard.
Last weekend the Paris set Bastille Day from the European house of Studio Canal hit theaters. An action film that could easily fit the likes of Liam Neeson, Bastille Day is a rapid fire adrenaline rush that is as compact and direct as the bullets from a gun.
Literally hitting close to home with the recent Paris attack, Bastille Day (which was shot long before the attack) plops us down in the middle of the city of light right before its holiday. American CIA agent Sean Briar (Idris Elba) arrives to be briefed for his new duties. Meanwhile expert pickpocket Michael Mason (Richard Madden) nicks the wrong bag inadvertently sending a terrorist attack into motion with a bombing. Agent Briar is sent to find and interrogate Michael before the French get to him, a little international agency chess if you will. Of course there is more at play as the conspiracy behind the lines reveals itself, not too many surprises there.
Elba brings his Luther strut to Agent Briar and believably pounds the pavement. A brilliantly crafted and executed chase sequence atop buildings in the first act will have you squirming in your seat. Madden, the former Rob Stark of Game of Thrones and boring Prince Charming of Cinderella, holds his own with charm and anxiety as Elba’s main screen partner. Both sport believable American accents, Madden’s sounds a lot like another actor whom I still am working to place. It might have been fun for a Brit and Scot to have led this charge, but then the film would have been too obviously Elba’s audition for the next James Bond. Just the way he nearly towers over everyone is gorgeous humor in itself.
The film is deftly paced and at only ninety-two minutes you get everything you need swiftly. The chase is afoot as one would say as the unlikely pair must work together to weasel out the corruption they find. Thankfully the cheese is layered on thinly and the reality of death, with point black agent shootings, gives the story the powerful edge it needs for squirmy realism. Alex Heffes music is a bit much, leaning on the volume button and queuing things so obviously. Bastille Day is clearly better than most, but mostly acts to remind us why Elba is destined for even greater stardom.