Bastille Day

Briar, James Briar!

Hey, remember that time when the internet collectively got offended about something really simple? Oh yeah, you’re right, I really need to narrow that down.

Remember when Anthony Horowitz stated that Idris Elba was too street to play James Bond and everyone shouted racism without any context to the statement?

Well, we all know that Idris Elba oozes style and charm whilst being handsome enough to swell the loins of the frostiest of ice-queens but can he punch people really hard, run across rooftops or fire guns in mid-air?

Bastille Day proves that Elba can indeed repel peoples’ faces with his fists in a film that often feels like an audition reel for James Bond.

Perhaps it’s not meant to be? However, given the recent furore it’s hard not to come into Bastille Day without this pre-conception of Elba as the next 007.

If you can separate this notion you see that Sean Briar (Idris Elba) is actually quite different to Bond and is almost more like Ice Cube’s role as Captain Dickson in 21 Jump Street.

Briar is gruff, mood yet distinctly watchable. He is meant to be offset by the jovial pickpocket Michael Mason (Richard Madden) but Madden’s character is not allowed enough dialogue to adequately play the fool.

What this means is that it’s just not as fun as it should be. But then again…. perhaps it’s not intended to be a light-hearted crime thriller?

The story follows growing tensions in Paris between French nationals and religious/immigrant groups ahead of Bastille day. The tensions have been growing due to recent bomb attacks, scapegoating and police intervention, which all seems to hit a raw nerve given recent events in Paris.

What I wasn’t expecting was the suggestion that these events are being puppeteered by Frenchmen to suit their own agenda.

Suggesting that events of perceived terrorism might have been either orchestrated or sanctioned by those who are charged with protecting the public is a risky concept. It’s also one that needs a delicate hand to highlight the complexity of motivations and issues, otherwise it can come across as a crackpot conspiracy theories to many.

Unfortunately Bastille Day doesn’t pronounce the motivations of those involved in it’s complicated plot and therefore doesn’t feel like the important piece of cinema that maybe it should have been.

But then again; perhaps it was never meant to be? That’s the thing, I can’t quite place what the film is trying to be. Is it meant to show-reel for double-oh-Elba? Is it a whimsical crime thriller? Is it a serious examination of political manipulations of public sentiment?

I think the answer falls somewhere between all of that, leaving it as confusing as using ‘le’ and ‘la’ in French and much less revolutionary than the storming of Bastille in 1790.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Idris Elba
+ Decent fisticuffs
+ Interesting political undercurrents

– Madden’s character isn’t fun enough.
– Not sure what this film is meant to be
– Motivations not explored



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