Michael Mason, a charming and freakishly good pick-pocketer, played by Richard Madden, gets inadvertently caught up in what appears to be a terror attack in Paris. He finds himself on the run from unknown enemies and must do whatever he can to survive. Meanwhile, CIA surveillance expert Sean Briar, played by Idris Elba, is hunting down those responsible for the terror attack. Mason and Briar’s paths cross, and although they have opposite personalities, they work together to get to the bottom terror attack.
This review will not contain spoilers.
This film was written by James Watkins and Andrew Baldwin. This is Andrew Baldwin’s first screenplay credit, which, as you’ll read in this review, is a great credit to him. Baldwin has a few films with his writing in it coming up, including a Jeremy Renner ‘Bourne’ Film. James Watkins, who also directed this, is a little light in his resume as well, but still did a solid job. Watkins has written a directed a few thriller films including ‘Gone’ (2006) and ‘Eden Lake’ (2008) so he’s no stranger to the action and suspense genre. While Watkins showed he is apt at story telling, however, he also showed the audience that there is no substitute for experience.
“I don’t work for the CIA”
– Michael Mason
“You do today”
– Sean Brior
So, here we go. The plot at its core is not an original one. Without going into too much detail, there are bad people trying to cause chaos all over a well-populated city and one maverick law enforcement officer will stop at nothing to stop them – throw in a sidekick and I have described a lot of films you’ve seen, am I right? Yes, yes I am. So if you are after complete originality – sorry, this isn’t a film for you. I’ve probably dissuaded a few of you already, so let me give you the upside – it’s a simple yet fun ride. The set up for the entire events that unfold in the film, was actually quite clever. I’m not going to go into detail about it, but it was effective and creative. From there, we have some well spread out action scenes, entwined with pretty decent plot developing scenes.
This film will throw twists and turns as the genre often does, and a lot of you will see coming. Not always a bad thing, but sometimes it is, like in this film. When you see a ‘shock twist’ a mile away, you develop something like tunnel vision. All of a sudden you a focusing on what you know is coming instead of looking around and appreciating what else is there. Despite those few times, this film is entertaining. It becomes a buddy cop film, if not a little but at the start, completely by the end. Think ‘Lethal Weapon’ (1987), as your classic example, but it’s not limited to actual ‘cop’ films, it’s in anything, think the television series Suits (2011-). Buddy cop films, where the two complete opposite personalities have to work together, can be fun or contrived and terrible (I’m looking at you ‘Theodore Rex’ (1995)). This one was fun.
“I want a deal.If we find the girl she confirms my story, I’m free and clear” – Michael Mason
“Deal” – Sean Brior
“Pinky Promise” – Michael Mason
“Get the fuck out of here” – Sean Brior
I attribute this to it’s two lead actors. The first being the seasoned and gruff playing Idris Elba, who played the stern and tough Sean Brior. If you’re trying to think of what Elba has been in think Heimdall from the ‘Thor’ and ‘Avengers’ films, or Mumbles from ‘RocknRolla’ (2008), or even Stringer Bell in ‘The Wire’ (2002-2004). His interactions with co-star Richard Madden were hilarious. Richard Madden, who plays Michael Mason, was smooth and charismatic in his role. You’d know Mason from his role as Rob Stark in ‘Game of Thrones’ (2011-). He plays the complete opposite character in this, and he does it quite well.
Additionally, we had Charlotte Le Bon in the role of Zoe. I thought she was fantastic and almost stole the show. Her scared, panicked and emotionally worn down character was captivating. In such a lighthearted action film, her performance was almost out of place.
Another element of this film that I liked was the fact that there was no love story. No jaded hero trying to win back his ex, or a weak character learning to be strong and winning over the girl at the end. There was none of that. The plot was kept simple. It was actually a huge breath of fresh air. What this did was let the film run smoothly. No scenes in between the action where the two antagonists gaze at each other and talk about something unrelated to what’s happening around them while hoping to create watchable chemistry. No will they, won’t they. No lie that wins over one’s heart but eventual heartache as the truth comes out later in the film. None of it. It was excellent.
“Are you in love?” – Sean Brior
“What?” – Michael Mason
“Are you writing a novel?” – Sean Brior
“Am I? What?” – Mchael Mason
“What the fuck are you doing in Paris?” – Sean Brior
I quite enjoyed the ingenuity and innovation behind some of the action sequences. Although some have panned the fight scene in the back of the van, I enjoyed it. It was taken the old plot, and trying to spruce it up with new ways to deliver the ideas. They did the very best with what they had and managed to keep the audience firmly engaged with these action sequences. Not the most amazing fights I’ve seen on the silver screen, but they were very good.
I’ll sum Bastille Day up thus so; concise. It was over in 90 minutes but didn’t feel rushed. It seemed to accomplish everything it needed to accomplish in that time and that is quite the feat in this modern era of filmmaking. The way it accomplished this was being focused. It didn’t waste time on unnecessary scenes or verbose and drawn out dialogue. The good mixture of action scenes and the plateau dialogue scenes can easily be attributed to director James Watkins.
“You ran. Innocent people don’t run” – Sean Brior
“Have you seen yourself? You’d run too” – Michael Mason
Is this film riddled with cliches? Absolutely. It’s an action film, it’ destined to. Is this old and decaying plot idea? You know it. But is it entertaining? Very much so. Is it worth watching? Oh my yes. Am I going stop asking questions and answering them? Never.