"smart, hilarious and cleverly-written"
The British public may have cast Idris Elba as their favourite to play James Bond and the actor has been inundated with questions about playing the spy for months, but now in Bastille Day he seriously proves he has what it takes to be called 007.
Here, Elba plays Sean Briar, a former CIA agent who is working on an anti-terrorism operation in Paris, France. This certainly captures the zeitgeist considering the November attacks in Paris, and the movie was in fact pushed back from release in February to April as the film’s events have similarities to the tragedy.
Richard Madden (Game of Thrones, Cinderella) plays Michael, a pickpocket who steals a bag from Zoe, played by Charlotte Le Bon (The Walk). Little does he know Zoe is carrying a bomb concealed inside a teddy bear. Michael dumps the bag in a bin and it explodes and he is named as a terrorist. He teams up with Briar to prove his innocence and find out who made the bomb and what they plan to do next.
From the outset, Bastille Day looks like a brainless action movie that conjures up a plot between set pieces like the Fast and Furious franchise but it is actually far more intelligent. Its central premise, a case of mistaken identity or mistaken motive (pickpocket, not terrorist), is a strong launching pad and their subsequent mission is exciting, dramatic, very funny and its civil unrest setting feels very contemporary.
Yet Bastille Day never takes itself too seriously – you’re always waiting for the actors to look into the camera and wink (they don’t). Elba has some fantastic one-liners, mostly employed following a fight, and his chemistry with Madden is a joy to watch. It has buddy cop vibes at times because the characters are so different and bicker over tiny things but are a team at the end of the day.
Elba really shows how capable he is as an action star. He is involved in many fights and chases and looks like a total badass, barely breaking a sweat while finding time to crack jokes. You would not want to mess with him – he means business! There are some brilliant action sequences in this – notably a rooftop chase with Elba and Madden and a multi-person fight in the back of a van.
I’ll be the first to admit that Bastille Day, on the outside, doesn’t look like an amazing piece of action cinema, but I was wrong. It’s smart, hilarious and cleverly-written, with twists I could not have predicted. It starts with an interesting concept and takes us on this wonderful ride featuring expertly choreographed action scenes and two fantastic performances from both Elba and Madden.