|'It is still possible to make a ninety-minute Action film that isn't an aggressive cliche, but this does make you wonder.'|
'Would you cancel your Independence Day?', asks a French character of an American journalist, during the course of Bastille Day (now retitled, in some quarters as The Take). You can't help but feel as though it's a deliberate nod to the film of the same name. In much the same way as some may say that Roland Emmerich's disaster flick is a 'guilty pleasure', Bastille Day aims for the mantle of 'palatable tosh'; an enjoyable French romp, with American inflections and Action cliche love. You can imagine a producer in the early prelim of this film turning with a twinkle in his eye to his associates and declaring 'today, we celebrate our Independence Day'.
Sadly, it misses 'palatable' by some way, but hits 'tosh' dead on. It is still possible to make a ninety-minute Action film that isn't an aggressive cliche, but this does make you wonder. Within the first few scenes Kelly Reilly's superior is telling Sean Briar (Idris Elba) that he 'has to play the game', in the face of bizarre and unexplained aggression from alternative superior Tom (Anatol Yusef). It appears that Briar may be a bit of a wildcard. Who knew.
Meanwhile, in a spectacular coincidence that coincides with Briar's arrival at CIA Paris, Michael Mason (Richard Madden) is pick-pocketing reluctant terrorist Zoe's (Charlotte Le Bon) bomb, leading to a predictable catastrophe and the ire of Briar.
Madden is an odd choice for a character described as a 'young con artist'. At the age of thirty, he's probably getting on a little to justify his character's wandering ways and parental issues and the descriptions of such don't really tarry with what we see of Mason. He's more likely to be the down-and-out sort of traveller than the wants-to-find-himself variety and the script hops between those personas to suit the level of odd poignancy the script wants to pursue at any given moment. Madden doesn't convince and feels miscast, but the problems are as much the screenplay's uncertainty about who he is as his performance.
The biggest problem though is in the film's syntax, poorly marshaled by co-writer/director James Watkins and problematically stitched together by the editing. It's an oddity that the problem is in this area, given Watkins tight helming of The Woman In Black in particular and some of the problems are potentially related to the film's apparent recut, after the Paris attacks in November 2015. In one sequence though, Watkins goes quickly from a rooftop chase, to inside a flat, back to a long rooftop... before plonking us and his characters into a flower market. The cuts don't make sense and it isn't the only instance of this sort of basic problem throughout the runtime. Bastille Day is frequently amateurishly lit, performed and directed and the technical problems eventually overcome a story that is brave enough both to use the word 'immigrants' and not rely upon it to provide the antagonists.
Bastille Day was playing on TalkTalk TV Store.