Director: James Watkins
Starring: Idris Elba, Richard Madden, Kelly Reilly
I’ll be honest, I was sold on this film by watching a trailer dubbed in German. All I needed to know was that Idris Elba was playing the lead in an action movie and I was ready to see this film. I didn’t expect it to be groundbreaking or anything; I expected another bland ‘Taken’ style action film with all the fun taken out. The only benefit of the film I expected was watching Idris Elba kick some ass. I was very wrong – gladly not about that last part – because ‘Bastille Day’ is in fact the best buddy-cop film we’ve had in a while. Rather than focus on comedy at the expense of action, like ‘The Heat’ or ‘Hot Pursuit’ (wierdly those are the only two recent buddy films I can think of), ‘Bastille Day’ puts the action first. So we get good action, some comedy between the two leads (Richard Madden and Elba), and then some more action. Sure, the comedy mainly comes from the two leads bickering, but it works; it makes the audience laugh and gives us a bit of room to relax.
The film starts out with Richard Madden, who plays Rob Stark, an American pick-pocket in France, stealing from people while using a naked lady as a distraction. After the job he steals a crying girl’s bag, but little did he know, that in said bag, there is a bomb – he soon discards the bag, and soon after the bomb goes off. Now Rob Stark is implicated in a terrorist attack. This is where Idris Elba comes in. He plays a rule-breaking, reckless, ex-special ops soldier who now works for the CIA. He gets sent after Madden, and once he realises Madden isnt the terrorist, they are in a race against time to find the real threat.
It sounds straight out of the 90’s, and it certainly feels like it. It’s a classic buddy film, and it’s very aware of it. There is very little the film gets wrong, but one problem I can see some people having is that the film lacks a proper villain, but there’s a reason for that – it’s all about finding the villain, and uncovering the villain’s plan (which isn’t what you expect). What I found is, the film basically spells out who the villain/plan is, but it does it in such a way that you dont fully realise until the film reveals, and it all starts to make sense. I didn’t personally find any of the this to be a much of a problem, but I did hear a lot of people complain about it.
The one thing that the film did do that I found a bit odd, was that the film didn’t have a single Muslim character. Not even your token tech-guy or even a terrorist (the latter part is a really good thing though). It’s just something that I’m used to at this point, but here it’s a rather interesting and impacting choice, as the film goes out of its way (without forcing it too much) to say that all Muslims are not terrorists. It’s something that I dont think I’ve seen a film do to date, and it was so great to see that happen in a film. I just found it a bit weird to do that, and then not have any Muslim character at all; it would have really put that point across if Richard Madden’s character was a Muslim (but then I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t get a release anywhere).
Outside of that, it’s only more good things. Especially the action. It’s always great to see a modern action film which is well-choreographed, nicely shot and without too much shaky cam. And the film has a good balance of hand-to-hand, shootouts and chase sequences, so it never feels like it’s too much at a time. One small problem I found with the action is the sound. Not so much in the first two acts, but in the third act, I really felt that the sounds of bones breaking and heads smashing against various surfaces could have been a bit louder to increase the impact, cos at that point in the third act, the action is coming thick and fast – which is glorious – but after a while, it loses its effect. That’s all of my criticisms though, which says a lot about a film when my biggest problem is that the sound needs to be a tad louder.
One more thing I want to talk about before I come to my conclusion is Idris Elba. He’s my favourite actor, along with Nic Cage, but he really does step up and deliver a superb performance in this. He plays your reckless rogue, a rule-breaking badass cop, and he takes it to a whole new level of cool. You mess with him and he will break your arm then put you through the wall (he does that multiple times in the movie – it’s amazing).
So overall, ‘Bastille Day’ is definitely one of the best buddy movies we’ve had in a very long time. It goes with the age-old idea of cop and criminal working together on one case, but it updates it for this era and cuts out all the fatty crap we usually get. Leaving the film at a nice, manageable 90 minute action flick, it does everything it wants to and doesn’t feel a minute too long. You should definitely check this one out; for me it’s a film which will probably end up in my top ten of the year.