Bastille Day (2016)

  • Time: 92 min
  • Genre: Action | Drama
  • Directors: James Watkins, Jill Gagé
  • Cast: Idris Elba, Richard Madden, Kelly Reilly


Michael Mason, a pick-pocket living in Paris steals a bag with a teddy bear in it. Not realizing the toy contains a timed bomb, he tosses it aside on a busy street. A few seconds later it explodes, killing four people. CCTV footage reveals Masons face and the French police tag him as a terrorist threat. The explosion, although botched, was set up by a select group of the French Interior Ministry as a decoy so they can make a half billion dollar digital transfer from a bank, (closed on French National Day) -hence the title Bastille Day. In a separate CIA investigation the unruly agent Sean Briar, discovers the real story behind Masons “terrorist attack”. The two men, on different sides of the law, collaborate to bring the corrupt members of the Ministry down.


  • Anyone who’s ever seen Idris Elba as Detective Chief Inspector John Luther in the British television crime drama Luther knows full well what a darkly magnetic, physically imposing and brusquely no-nonsense performer the East Londoner is. So it’s no small wonder that, with Daniel Craig about to vacate as James Bond, that fans have been clamouring for Elba to be the next 007. Bastille Day may well be a preview of Elba as Bond in much the same way as Layer Cake served as an audition reel of sorts for Craig. Efficient and entertaining, Bastille Day covers roughly 48 very tense hours in Paris that begins with a bomb accidentally tossed onto a sidewalk in Pigalle and causing the death of four innocent civilians. The bomb was meant for the headquarters of the French Nationalist Party, but young radical Zoe (Charlotte Le Bon) had decided against carrying out the plan only for her bag, containing the teddy bear in which the bomb was hidden, to be pickpocketed by American runaway Michael Mason (Richard Madden), who becomes the object of a citywide terrorist manhunt when his face is caught on several surveillance cameras.

    Enter Briar, a “reckless, insubordinate and irresponsible” CIA agent heading up a secret CIA investigation. He’s meant to track and retrieve Mason before the French interior ministry led by Victor Gamieux (José Garcia) realises that the Americans are conducting their own separate investigation into terrorist activities. Both Briar and Mason soon become targets not only for the French police but also for the terrorist group who were using Zoe as a mule and are now aiming to do away with the distressed young woman. Briar must now protect himself, Mason and Zoe while trying to thwart the group’s plan to wreak havoc during the Bastille Day celebrations.

    There’s a great deal to admire about Bastille Day, not least of which are the action set pieces staged by director James Watkins, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Andrew Baldwin. These set pieces possess a spatial integrity and they sustain the momentum without sacrificing actual sense, which is actually a very rare thing to pull off on a limited budget. It’s difficult not to applaud the initial chase scene that commences on the steep and sloping rooftops of Paris, continues through a congested indoor market, and then ends on a bluntly comic note amidst crowded outdoor stalls. A fight between half a dozen characters in the back of a moving van once again demonstrates Watkins’ deftness of touch as well as Tim Maurice-Jones crisp cinematography and Jon Harris’ oh-so-precise editing. The craftsmanship is highly commendable.

    Equally laudable is the script, which is lean and focused until the third act when it takes on a bit of flab in both the plotting and dialogue. Still, even when characters’ back stories are spotlighted, they are done so in a just-the-facts-ma’am directness, which prevents the story from getting bogged down in unnecessary psychology and sentimentality. Elba and Madden make for a fine team – the latter’s puppyish mannerisms at odds with the former’s act-first-ask-questions-never mentality. Le Bon makes a strong impression though Kelly Reilly, whom Watkins put through the most severe paces in his brutal horror drama Eden Lake (which co-starred Michael Fassbender and Jack O’Connell), is wasted in a supporting role.

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  • Intricate, complicated, and abidingly violent, The Take (my latest review) is akin to the best Jason Bourne movie you never saw. I didn’t mind that its ending felt like all things direct-to-video. I also didn’t mind that two of its villains (a bad cop and the Paris head of Homeland Security) looked enough alike to make the proceedings a little distracting. No I dug “Take” and you might too. It’s got a new breed of action hero in Idris Elba. He’s smoldering, a total badass, and he sends this thrumming action thriller into veritable orbit. Butt kicker Jason Statham would be proud. Paul Greengrass would be content and totally enamored. Bruce Willis would trade in all his Die Hard talons just to get back in this game.

    Anyway, The Take whose original title is Bastille Day (a reference to France’s version of Independence Day in the U.S.), is about the unlikely partnership between an insubordinate CIA agent (Sean Briar played by Elba) and a runaway thief (Michael Mason played by Richard Madden). They join forces to eliminate a terrorist conspiracy in the City of Lights. Idris Elba is intimidating and confident, with a devil-may-care attitude as the seething Briar. Madden looks like a cross between Hugh Jackman and Justin Timberlake with an acting voice similar to Jackman’s overwrought American accent. Their characters have good chemistry together even if it is at times, a little corny.

    Not withstanding a low expectation module, “Take” was a pleasant surprise for me. It’s a shame that most people never got a chance to see it (the film was pulled from theaters in Europe based on actual terrorist activity there). This 92-minute flick is faithfully helmed by writer/director James Watkins (The Woman in Black, Eden Lake). Watkins provides The Take with leveling technobabble, panning aerial shots, and plenty of malevolent fistfights. He uses Paris as a separate star locale, swiftly bringing you into a reconnaissance world of pickpockets, government corruption, and not so innocent bystanders (being framed for murderous acts). Oh and in “Take”, he showcases the best on-foot movie chase since 2006’s Casino Royale.

    As per the plot points in The Take, well they mesh together splendidly like warm apple cider and donuts. The look by cinematographer Tim Maurice-Jones is standard by way of most spy thrillers but is equally modern and palatable. And there is less jittery camerawork in “Take” than in the Bourne movies. In truth, that’s okay by me. Bottom line: See The Take. As a rental, it’s a decent “keepsake”. Rating: 3 stars.

    Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

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