Michael Mason (Richard Madden) 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), 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. Against orders, Briar recruits Michael to use his pickpocketing skills to help track down the source of the corruption. As a 24hr thrill ride ensues, the unlikely duo discovers they are both targets and must rely upon each other in order to take down a common enemy.
Review by Louise Keller:
Paris makes a stunning backdrop in this no-holds barred thriller in which Idris Elba makes a towering impression as a CIA agent to Richard Madden's street-smart pick-pocket. With a plot involving terrorism, political and police corruption, it is not surprising that the film's release was delayed in light of the recent Paris terror attacks. While the plot does not stray greatly from its predictable trajectory, director James Watkins (The Woman in Black, 2012) brings great tension with exhilarating action sequences, many of them in confined spaces: inside a room; a car; a truck; a bank vault. These help create a sense of imminent danger from which there is no escape. It is this sense of danger that makes the film so engaging. I jumped in my seat numerous times as the twists and turns of the relentless plot accelerate into action.
Distractions are key to the central action. The film begins with a knockout sequence set around Montmartre's Sacre Coeur, where pickpocket Michael Mason (Madden, Games of Thrones) gives a spectacular display of his sleight of hand talents as he surreptitiously accumulates an impressive supply of mobile phones and wallets. Girls will swoon at his long, dark lashes. Sean Briar (Elba), the athletic, tenacious CIA agent who does not follow the rules, is not used to being distracted and his pairing with Michael, as he pursues suspected terrorists following a fatal bomb explosion is fraught with tension and comic interactions. And then there is Zoe (Charlotte Le Bon, lovely), the pretty and vulnerable bomb mule who inadvertently becomes involved.
Elba and Madden make a terrific odd couple, with touches of humour woven into their dialogue and relationship. Kelly Reilly is a good addition to the cast, although her role is underwritten. The chase sequence on the Paris rooftops, with Briar in pursuit of Michael is one of the film's best, while the constant sense of motion through the buildings and streets of Paris keeps us on the edge of our seats. The action is hard-hitting and realistic - all on the eve of the Bastille Day celebrations, when history seems to be repeating itself.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Andrew Baldwin's first feature screenplay is a ripper and UK-born director James Watkins makes his third feature positively sizzle with tension throughout. Combining contemporary elements of terrorism, politics and corruption, the strength of the story probably contributed to Baldwin already working on/completed writing two more feature scripts. There is enough complexity to intrigue us but Watkins' razor sharp story telling skills keep us clear headed at all times; we know what is going on and who is trying to what. And why. Normally, that would be too much info, but in this story, there are good reasons to keep abreast of the action.
Idris Elba is a man-sized action hero as CIA agent Sean Briar, as cool as he is deadly, with enough flaws to make his character interesting. Richard Madden as Michael Mason makes a nuanced pickpocket with smarts, whose casual mistake on the streets of Montmartre slams him into the middle of a violent plan. He barely survives ... the stakes are higher, though, than a petty crim. The plan is totally relevant to this era of a terrorised world (I gather the screenplay was written before the November 2015 Paris terror attacks, but the film has been held back in deference to that event).
Terrific support from Kelly Reilly as Briar's CIA handler, a splendid surprise piece of casting. And Charlotte Le Bon is great as the innocent girlfriend lured into a plot she inadvertently foils ... temporarily.
Josˇ Garcia is gritty as the senior Paris cop who controls the action visible to the public and has a secret side, while Eriq Ebouaney does a great job as Baba, the fence through whom Michael does his business as a pickpocket, and who plays a key role in the story.
The chase early in the movie through buildings and over rooftops is up there with the best of such opening chase sequences, and the car chases are suspense-choreographed. Cinematography and music play crucial roles, as does the effective editing. A top notch thriller with its finger always on the trigger.
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BASTILLE DAY (M)
CAST: Idris Elba, Richard Madden, Charlotte Le Bon, Kelly Reilly, Josˇ Garcia, Eriq Ebouaney, Anatol Yusef
PRODUCER: Bard Dorros, Fabrice Gianferni, Steve Golin, David Kanter, Philippe Rousselet
DIRECTOR: James Watkins
SCRIPT: Andrew Baldwin
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tim Maurice-Jones
EDITOR: Jon Harris
MUSIC: Alex Heffes
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Paul Kirby
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Studio Canal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 12, 2016