Some critics noted that the best scenes from Luther’s middling fourth season were when Idris Elba’s titular detective neutralised threats through new and inventive means. This perhaps most famously occurred in episode two in which Luther took down two motor-bike driving hitmen with nothing more than a bin, in an act of sheer machismo. For those who enjoyed seeing the British actor using these skills, look no further than Bastille Day in which Elba does the same thing with little or no regard for human life.
Directed by James Watkins (of The Woman in Black and Eden Lake fame), the film begins with Michael (Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden), a pick-pocket in Paris, stealing tourists valuables in order to pawn them for money. However, he chooses the wrong mark when he steals a young woman’s bag that happened to be holding a bomb. Following the subsequent explosion, Michael finds himself on the run from both the French and U.S authorities. Meanwhile, new recruit to the C.I.A’s Paris division, Sean Briar (Elba), is tasked with finding the true people responsible. He only has a 24 hour window to do so before Bastille Day, when the terrorists claim they will strike again.
Idris Elba is compelling as the lead, slipping into his Liam Neeson-esque role with ease. It’s remarkable that up until now, the actor has not been given a big-budget film in which to shine as the main character. He has a gravitas and physicality that makes him ideal for action fare. Madden is also likeable, injecting some charm into his character’s lines. As the film mutates into a buddy movie between he and Elba, the two actors share some good banter and chemistry.
The central conceit of a petty thief stealing a bomb is ingenious enough to keep Bastille Day engaging for most of its running time. Although, it must be said that as the film progresses it becomes more clichéd and predictable. Anyone who has seen Die Hard: With a Vengeance, 12 Rounds or the recent French action film Point Blank will manage to see the twists coming. However, the film’s action is frenetic and well-choreographed, particularly the rooftop set-piece where Elba’s character chases Richard Madden’s. Also, at 90 minutes in length the film feels a lot tighter than many recent and overlong blockbusters (looking at you Batman vs Superman).
While the film’s plot involving bombings in Paris may feel slightly too close to home following recent events in the French capital, it’s clear from the opening scenes that the film’s relation to true events is purely coincidental. Bastille Day isn’t trying to make any grand political statements. What it’s trying to be is a fun, B-movie in the vein of recent EuropaCorp fare such as Taken, The Transporter Franchise or From Paris with Love. On that level, the film succeeds.
Verdict: Enjoyable fare – Bastille Day, featuring strong work by its leads, will appeal to casual action film fans.
Bastille Day is in cinemas on Friday 22nd April. Check out the trailer below.
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