BASTILLE DAY (2016)

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‘Michael Mason (Richard Madden, ‘GAME OF THRONES’) is an American pickpocket living in Paris who finds himself hunted by the CIA when he steals a bag that contains more than just a wallet. Sean Briar (Idris Elba, ‘LUTHER’, THE WIRE), the field agent on the case, soon realises that Michael is just a pawn in a much bigger game and is also his best asset to uncover a large-scale conspiracy. Going against commands, Briar recruits Michael to use his expert pickpocketing skills to help quickly track down the source of the corruption. As a 24hr thrill ride ensues, the unlikely duo discover they are both targets and must rely upon each other in order to take down a common enemy.’

James Watkins (Eden Lake, The Woman in Black) directs this action thriller that has a dash of Die Hard, a flicker of French Connection, a bit of Bourne and a splash of the French tv cop show, Braquo. Watkins has made an assured, above average thriller, the set pieces are well put together creating the right amount of excitement and tension. The rooftop chase is a highlight.

Richard Madden delivers the perfect amount of charm and vulnerability as Michael Mason, a man caught up in a wrong man situation not of his choosing. He plays a pickpocket, a talented pilferer who is working in Paris. In the opening scene he uses a very public distracting technique that makes his job ever so easy, why didn’t anyone else think of this?
He steals the wrong bag and finds himself a target.
Enter Idris Elba playing Sean Briar, a C.I.A. agent working intelligence in Paris, France who is given the job of recovering Mason. Idris gives spot on one man army. In a spot of witty dialogue between the two leads, Elba asks Madden “Why did you run?”
To which Madden replies, “You were coming after me……Have you seen yourself?”
Indeed, at 6ft4 he cuts an imposing figure.
Elba and Madden make a good team with subtly believable chemistry and there is very little mugging for the camera. Assured support comes from French/Canadian actress Charlotte Le Bon, English Kelly Reilly and French actors Thierry Godard and José Garcia. This is the film’s biggest strength, it’s European pedigree and Paris setting. Quite refreshing.

Bastille Day is in a better league than the majority of the studio thrillers.
Don’t be fooled, this is better than the average releases.

There are terrorists here who aren’t muslim and don’t have a religious agenda. This is so refreshing. Finally, a thriller with no anti …….(add media baddies of the day) propaganda. In fact, this kneejerk blame tactic is used by the media in the film and those responsible using this prejudice to their own poisonous agendas. Gone is the flag waving of many recent American thrillers and a more layered, multi cultural, Parisian feel replaces it making it closer to the the tone of the American films of the ’70’s, which were massively influenced by the French New wave and European films.

The music used in the film is fun with Reverend Black Grape by Black Grape and it’s always a good day when Shaun Ryder is heard in a big film. Also worth a mention is the Norman Cook/Idris Elba collaboration that is played during the end credits, The Road Less Travelled.

An entertaining Friday night thriller.

3.5/5

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LA REINE MARGOT (1994)

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Patrice Chereau directs and co-writes this historical French epic melodrama.

Based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas and set in Paris in 1572, this tells the story of real characters and events during the reign of Charles IX, specifically the powerplay between the Catholics (the monarchy) and the protestants (the Huguenots).

With such a rich history of the monarchy filled with intrigue, drama, betrayal and murder it stands to reason that the French would do justice to the material.

Catherine De Medici played with scheming depth by Virna Lisi marries off her daughter, Margot (the stunning Isabelle Adjani) to the Huguenot, Henri De Navarre (another brilliant performance by Daniel Auteuil) in order to broker a peace deal but when Catherine organises the St Bartholemew Day Massacre, chaos ensues. Margot, who does not love her betrothed, begins an affair with the handsome soldier; La Mole (Vincent Perez) as political intrigue, plotting and power play ensues.

Cyrano De Bergerac came out 4 years earlier and set the bar high for well-made, historical, French films. The cast are all excellent and are let down by the slightly pedestrian way that the story is told. It comes across as melodrama and reminds one of an historical television drama. When I first saw this in 1994, I was enamoured by the world and the intrigue as well as the acting. Seeing it over 20 years later, the holes become more apparent.

Special mention must go to Jean-Hughes Anglade (Betty Blue, Braquo) who plays the weak king, Charles IX. His journey is by far the most interesting which is due to his powerhouse performance.

If you’re a fan of the historical epic, then check this out, it’s markedly better than most of the recent fare.

3.5/5

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