FILM REVIEW: Bastille Day (15)

Bastille Day (15)
Bastille Day (15)

This cheesy-but-fun British thriller represents a decent calling card for the Idris-Elba-as-Bond movement, with the star running, shooting and punching his way around Paris with abandon.

It’s directed by James Watkins, here making an effective transition from horror (The Woman in Black, and the bloody terrifying Eden Lake) to action thriller, with a project that could have considerable franchise potential if it ends up being a hit. Richard Madden (Game of Thrones‘ Robb Stark) plays American Michael Mason, who turns out to be the world’s unluckiest pickpocket when he unwittingly steals a handbag from distraught young woman Zoe (Charlotte Le Bon) that turns out to have a bomb in it.

Fortunately, rogue CIA agent Sean Briar (Idris Elba) believes Mason’s protestations of innocence and they team up to track down Zoe and foil a terrorist plot cooked up by police insider Rafi (Spiral’s Thierry Godard) and his gang of goons.

Effortlessly handling all the variously demanding action moments, Elba is on fine form as gruff, no-nonsense Briar and the script has some fun with his imposing physicality.

Madden is fine as the in-over-his-head pickpocket, but he’s not quite as charismatic as the film seems to think he is and some of his line deliveries fall a little flat, resulting in a faintly awkward, if ultimately endearing chemistry between the two leads.

The plot is completely ridiculous, but Watkins maintains an engagingly energetic pace throughout, ensuring that there’s never a dull moment.

He also orchestrates a handful of terrific action sequences – highlights include a thrilling, vertiginous chase across the Parisian rooftops and two spectacular close-quarters punch-ups, one in an apartment building hallway and the other in the back of a van.

To be fair, some of the cheesier moments occasionally threaten to tip the film into so-bad-its-good territory, most notably Thierry barking “Send out the last hashtag!” to his posing-as-an-anarchist-movement heavies, but it’s still a lot of fun providing you don’t expect the plot to make any actual sense.

On a similar note, the supporting cast are rather poorly served, particularly poor old Kelly Reilly, who’s given next to nothing to do as Briar’s put-upon boss, meaning that supposedly dramatic moments lack emotional impact, since the characters aren’t properly fleshed out.

Despite its flaws, this is a pacey and enjoyable thriller enlivened by exciting action sequences and a rock-solid central performance from Idris Elba.

Review by Matthew Turner

3/5 stars