With all the trilogies, supernatural universes, book adaptations, and Disney spectacles, a good old fashioned mind-numbing action movie is just the thing the movie industry needed. Rising star Idris Elba is bound to draw the attention of some moviegoers, and for good reason. Bastille Day manages to avoid many mistakes made by action movies. Making it less mind-numbing and more entertaining than expected.
It is mostly the execution that makes this movie worth watching. The plot is nothing to write home about. The setting is Paris, days before the annual Bastille Day. A young man named Michael Mason, occupation pickpocketer, is accused of being a terrorist. In order to get himself out of this mess he works together with Sean Briar, a CIA agent played by Idris Elba, that was charged to bring him in. Together they go on a quest to figure out the reason behind the terrorist attacks. With some plot twists that keep you awake and perilous situations that are actually plausible the two uncover more than they bargained for.
What makes Bastille Day different than something like The Cold Light of Day? Disappointment hit me at first, when the first scene in Paris revealed a French girl speaking English. One of those movies where they can’t be bothered to speak the native tongue of the location where the story unravels. Soon thereafter, however, we get a glimpse of the actual terrorists. A group of French men who indeed speak French. From here on the movie was already better than most other action movies. Yet, there is more. Apart from ignoring the language barrier that many English speaking people, let alone Dutch folks like myself, run into, the movie also surprises with the proper action scenes. Most notably a chase between the two main characters, where neither of them are experts at parcours. It is refreshing to see an action hero that does not have excellent athletic skills. Because, let’s face it, Michael Mason (Richard Madden) is supposed to be an ordinary pick-pocketer. He is talented in the crowds on the streets, but steep rooftops aren’t his thing. Opposed to that is a man like Idris Elba, while his character is a great agent, his posture is not made for a swift and smooth dance on the rooftops.
The streets of Paris are recognizable, despite the fact that some scenes were shot in England. It feels like Paris, even though the Eiffel Tower isn’t shoved in your face every few scenes. A realistic approach makes Bastille Day a very plausible scenario even though there are some things that don’t really make sense. However, these are things that can be overlooked, because the movie does so well in places where other similar productions tend to fail the viewer.
Bastille Day is an entertaining mix of Now You See Me and From Paris with Love. The mystery and intrigue on the one hand and the action packed scenes on the other hand. The details in the directing is what makes Bastille Day worth watching despite its somewhat simple premise. If you need a night out and you are looking for a stand alone movie that is not part of a franchise or a trilogy this is the one you’re looking for.