Writer Andrew Baldwin and director James Watkins try to echo post-millennial Luc Besson in this engaging European actioner that cements Idris Elba as a fantastic new action hero for 2016. He plays Sean Briar, a maverick former CIA agent who tries to bring down a terrorist organisation that has targeted Paris. Meanwhile a young thief and con-artist (Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden) accidently gets involved after a bomb goes off, making him the wrong prime suspect. What follows is Elba in true ass-kicking mode, odd-coupled up with Madden as they rush to save the day.
The plot frequently requires leaps of faith – but then most action-dramas in this mould do. So a few plot discrepancies aside, Bastille Day works exceptionally hard in delivering a popcorn action film that happily caters to the masses and delivers some brilliantly paced sequences along the way.
Paris looks amazing and is the perfect backdrop for the story to unfold. Much like in The Sweeney: Paris, it knows how to use its infamous Parisian locations to good effect here, creating tense, exciting and edge-of-your-seat spectacle that plays to Elba’s onscreen magnetism. There’s also good acting support from the likes of Charlotte Le Bon, Kelly Reilly and José Garcia. Richard Madden bounces off Elba’s hard-nosed cop to create some nice character exchanges too, with the bickering ghosts of 48hrs and Midnight Run clearly an influence on the two performances.
It’s the sheer presence of Elba that makes Bastille Day such an engaging watch though. Briar could be a character that we can get behind for numerous sequels, in much the same way as Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills did for the Taken movies. Elba really delivers in the action stakes, with a fight in an apartment stairwell being a particular highlight. The finale of the story also brings the best out of the actor, giving him the chance to impress on a large set-piece that involves a frantic race against time to save the day (taking place in a very recognisable French landmark too).
The action is solid, the humour works and the cast are all very watchable, which makes Bastille Day a guilty pleasure that knows its limitations but still delivers a memorable cinematic experience. With Elba on this kind of magnetic form, surely he is the only logical choice for Bond now?! For a franchise looking to reinvent itself once again, they could do a lot worse than this guy. Whether that works or not, Idris Elba is certainly a breath of fresh air for action movies and his performance in Bastille Day will hopefully lead to more roles in the genre… and perhaps another ride around Paris for a sequel to Bastille Day too. It would be a welcome one.
Cast: Idris Elba, Richard Madden, Charlotte Le Bon, Kelly Reilly, José Garcia Director: James Watkins Writer: Andrew Baldwin Released By: Studiocanal Certificate: 15 Duration: 92 mins Release Date: 22nd April 2016