Film Review: Bastille Day

by Sam Robinson

Rated M. Starring Idris Elba, Richard Madden, Charlotte Le Bon. Directed by James Watkins.

Watching the trailer for Bastille Day, you could easily assume that it’s somewhat of a fraudster film, a la last year’s Focus, but in reality, it’s far more dark and sinister.

American pickpocket Michael Mason (Madden) steals a bag from a lady in a cafe in Paris, not realising that inside is a bomb, which eventually detonates, killing a number of innocent people on a Paris street. Mason is then chased down by steely-gazed, intimidatingly bulky CIA agent Sean Briar (Elba), and Mason’s innocence is hard to prove. But this is where the story takes a sour turn as the people start rioting in the streets, and corruption is revealed.

As a film, Bastille Day is a strange beast. It’s an American action movie shot in France, and often reads like a foreign film, with plenty of English subtitles over French dialogue. It tries at times to be very grim and spooky, but this is undercut by Elba’s tough yet goofy take on a James Bond hero (audition piece?), who keeps getting weighed down by Mason and Le Bon’s hapless Zoe. As a whole, the film looks and feels relatively low budget, and it’s hard to take the bad guys seriously when their repeated catchcry is ‘release the hashtag!’ Yes, hashtags are the way to bring anarchy to the streets.

Also underlying Bastille Day is the constant reminder of last November’s terrorist attacks in Paris. To the credit of the filmmakers, this was shot well in advance of those attacks (back in 2014), but releasing six months on still feels a little raw for this to hit our screens – especially as the explosions in Brussels were only a number of weeks ago.

What Bastille Day does show is an uncertain world, and I got thinking about the protection we have in the Lord Jesus. Mason is this punk kid with all the confidence in the world as a pickpocket, but when he becomes a target, he cowers before Elba’s Briar (and fair enough too, the guy is huge). As he gathers up Mason and Zoe for a wild chase through Paris, there’s a feeling of safety. In the uncertainty of world events today, there is safety in the arms of Jesus. John 10:11 –

‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…’

Not only is does Jesus call people to himself, but he also offered himself as a sacrifice to give new life. Security in him is far greater than being taken in the wings of a beefy action hero. There is safety in Christ.

The Verdict: Bastille Day is a fairly brainless action flick that provides a number of thrilling scenes, but fails in overall execution. 2.5/5

Bastille Day releases in Australian cinemas this Thursday, 12th May.

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