Idris Elba stretches his action legs in James Watkins’ Bastille Day as a gruff CIA Agent working to stop a terrorist attack in France.
Some may argue that this film is exploitative considering the real life situation in France that occurred in November 2015 but this film was reportedly made before that so it seems to be one massive coincidence. The situation in this film is very different at any rate so I don’t think anyone could be accused of profiting from a tragedy here.
At its core this is a buddy film. Elba’s Agent Sean Briar works with expert Pickpocket Michael Mason (Richard Madden) to stop this attack before it claims too many lives. They are pretty well matched in a buddy comedy sort of way and have a few memorable scenes together. Elba is the “serious one” who can’t be bothered putting up with anything his unlikely partner says and Madden is the “funny one” always ready to deliver a one liner to try and diffuse tense silences. It’s not all that clever or original but the performances of the actors make it work well enough.
Idris Elba is really well cast here with his American accent not having any noticeable weaknesses -at least to me- and his tough guy persona suiting him really well. Elba is an intimidating figure and carries himself really well in the action scenes. There’s always an element that nobody is really a match for him which robs many of the scenes of any tension but Elba’s physicality makes everything believable.
Richard Madden works well with what he’s given. Most of his noteworthy scenes involve him pickpocketing various people and I always found it believable that he could be quick as well as resourceful enough to do so unnoticed. He has good chemistry with Elba which makes them an engaging pair to watch and he comes across as likable enough to not want him dead. There isn’t much to his character beyond an implied somewhat tragic backstory but there’s enough to keep things moving along here.
I’ve mentioned that there’s nothing really original about this film and there really isn’t. Briar is a no nonsense Agent type who only plays by his own rules and Mason is your typical anti-establishment millennial who thinks his way is better than what society would like him to do. The script is full of one liners that we’ve heard in other films or lines that don’t belong in any film due to how laughable they are.
The plot is simple to follow from the point of view of the objective but it’s overcomplicated with some unnecessary additions such as encouraging citizens to rise up and corruption at the highest levels. If this had been a simple chase of someone planning an attack then it would have been much tighter.
I wouldn’t say there are any villains in here at all as there only seems to be an endless supply of henchmen. This makes it harder to invest in anything that’s going on as the objective becomes slightly unclear when the narrative essentially follows Briar and Mason going from place to place chasing down leads. The film didn’t need a fleshed out antagonist as such but there was an overall lack of accomplishment when the film ended.
Despite the complete lack of originality it’s very difficult to be bored by this film as it delivers some engaging action sequences with some variety sprinkled in due to the pickpocketing angle. There’s a particularly good sequence involving Mason starting a chain of events that ultimately leads to a bar fight. Anytime Elba takes someone on is entertaining as well. It all moves along at a decent pace and the film doesn’t linger any longer than it needs to.
A solid if unoriginal action film that is elevated by the performances of Idris Elba and Richard Madden. The plot is overcomplicated by the attempts at political relevance and there are no lines that we haven’t heard in better action films. Despite this it is never boring and Idris Elba proves very capable as an action here. You could do worse as a viewing experience.
- Idris Elba and Richard Madden’s performance
- some entertaining sequences
- a solid pace that keeps the film from becoming boring
- a complete lack of originality
- the overcomplicated story