Run time: 91 min
Genres: Action | Thriller
Director: Julien Leclercq
Writers: Simon Moutairou, Julien Leclercq
Stars: Vincent Elbaz, Grégori Derangère, Mélanie Bernier
Based on a true story, a SWAT team is tasked with storming a high-jacked Air France plane to save its passengers.
|Plot Keywords: swat team, air france, airport, airplane, french|
Release Date: 23 April 2012 (UK)
USA has her SWAT, Japan has her Security Police, Brazil has her BOPE featured in Elite Squad, and as far as special police teams go, the French has got her GIGN (Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale) making it onto the big screen, and what more than to introduce them via a true, high profile aircraft hijacking of an Air France Airbus 300 plane in the year 1994 involving the supposed attempt of using a fuel laden aircraft as a missile targeted against a major city landmark, a chilling 7 years before a terrorist group managed to carry out this dastardly act on the soil of USA.
Those of us who had grown up playing the first person shooter game Counter-strike will be no strangers to the uniform of the GIGN, since it is one of the four outfits that you can select on your character profile if you choose to be on the side of the counter-terrorists. Director Julien Leclercq paid close attention to detail and began with literally a big bang to showcase the capabilities of the GIGN troopers, before saving up the real deal for the extended final act. But that's not to say that the film is a boring ride. On the contrary, Leclercq crafted a gripping tale that moves, probes and examines very quickly how things get to spiral out of control until the inevitable outcome, expertly handling three separate narrative threads running concurrently before finally converging into the titular battle onboard the narrow confines of an aircraft.
The first naturally comes from the perpetrators, the terrorists, their thought process and ruthless action in causing mass panic and fear to further their political cause. Here it's the GIA out to free two of their comrades in Algeria, or so it seems, and had taken an Air France plane at the airport as leverage. But the second thread, focused on Mélanie Bernier's Foreign Ministry analyst Carole in a very Jack Ryan-esque role whose research, insights and gut feel points to a very different strategy and objective adopted by the hijackers, and has to cut through the usual red tape in the administration to push her points through, at times too direct that it irks the brass. And the last narrative thread paints a rather personal picture of GIGN trooper Thierry (Vincent Elbaz), personifying the issues and concerns of those who put their lives on the line to protect strangers, at the risk of upsetting and disappointing their own family members even, who cannot reconcile why they do what they do.
Technically, the film has fantastically strained its colour palette, making it very close to black and white, which I thought suited it fine since it's actually loosely referencing events from history (with the dramatic license for it too I hope) like a documentary, akin to accessing vague memory banks or like watching a news reel unspool – some of the clips that the characters watch from television were the real deal at the time. Then there is the choice of adopting the shaky cam. Now I'm not a proponent for this camera technique because more often than not it gets exploited by the filmmakers to cover up flaws in their work, and am finding it tiring as an audience to try and follow events on screen when the camera moves about almost all the time. It's not to say it cannot be used, because The Assault did it nicely that fit the narrative well, transmitting that sense of urgency and constant danger, helped by a pulsating soundtrack by Jean-Jacques Hertz and Francois Roy.
What made this film excel amongst its peers are the sensitive stories and characters involved in a life and death situation, with viewpoints presenting both in macro and micro terms, the latter allowing you to feel for the characters since it's set up very carefully to allow for empathy. Leclercq does not pull his punches in vilifying the evil doers, with powerful scenes both to evoke a sense of hatred for the senseless violence they preach, and in one potent scene involving a terrorist having to face up to his parents, allowed that slight sliver of sympathy that they are but pawns manipulated by others. It's a little pity though that the socio-political context of the incident isn't covered in the film in detail which may leave some perplexed, and while it may rob The Assault of its pace, may probably enhance the viewer's understanding of the conflict that existed.
As far as police thrillers go, The Assault scores high on both action and drama, providing that unique combination very rarely seen in action films, that allows you to feel for the characters, and appreciate the unenviable task of the special forces in the respective countries constantly training and prepping to deter any would be aggressors, but when the time calls for it, to swing into action unflinchingly. Tactics and weapons on display in the film also provides ample fuel for fruitful post screening discussions. Definitely one of my favourite films this year!
I was fascinated and totally on the edge of my seat for this one. Despite flaws in the production and irrelevant scenes involving one of the GIGN member's wife and little daughter, included obviously for the sake of emotional pull, this film is an accurate reenactment of the Air France hijacking of 1994 and subsequent raid to free the hostages. This film is a stark reminder why we have to endure airport security and how crazy these Muslim religious fanatics are.
The movie had a made-for-TV quality and could have done with higher production values; perhaps the budget was limited. The version I saw had dubbed voices which made the acting seem worse than it really was. I think it would be a lot better in French with subtitles. A lot of the technical details of the planning of the raid were just not explained, no doubt the film makers were more interested in dramatic effect. But the fact that it was an accurate reenactment of real events made these flaws appear minor and the events more gripping.
At one point the French Government tries to appease the Terrorists by giving them a large sum of money without any hint or assurance that the hostages would be released. I said to myself, "Did that really happen? I mean, could they be that dumb?" Those leery of French politics will just have to groan and say "Not again!" But then at the time they didn't have the lessons of 9/11 to inform them.
All in all I was immersed in this film and was quite willing to overlook its minor flaws in light of the important lessons it teaches. Historical accuracy counts for a lot in this kind of drama.
While we are on a subject of movies based on true events, we must mention this French gem from 2010. Although the production values are not blockbuster-like, as you would expect them in a movie of this caliber, the usual French colour manipulation and slight blur applied in post-processing made the whole thing look much better with almost noir vibe. I had some doubts about this movie, that it will be some Taxi-like action, but I assure you that this is a serious movie. The only flaw that I could think of is that they didn't manage to fully develop the characters, but then again that wasn't the point. The point was the assault, and that part was done perfectly.
In the past decade we have seen a number of movies portraying special forces of different countries (SWAT, BOPE ) so we finally get the chance to see the frenchies in action, and out of all them, they were most successful (at least in real life). The Assault is a movie about the hijacking of Air France Flight 8969, that was taken by the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) in the December of 1994 and the attempts of the French government to peacefully resolve this situation. Although this happened in 1994, after the September 11 attacks and a number of failed attempts to hijack other planes this is still a very interesting subject, especially now with the rise of the Islamic extremists. Speaking of them, we have a rare chance to look inside the mind of your average terrorist, and we have to thank the actors for that. Along with the actual raid, that part of the movie was just so fascinating to me. Maybe because of the outcome of this hijacking, they didn't hold back with the story and we can actually see what is going on behind closed doors. Bribes, pleads, blackmail and only as a final solution an assault With a very talented director and a great cast, this movie will keep you on the edge of your seat with its realistic action and suspenseful atmosphere. The special bonus is that it's all true, and this just adds more tension to an already intense movie. I will not reveal you what happens in the end, but if you want you can check out the links below for more information, enjoy As a final note, I must implore you that as with any other movie that isn't made in USA or England, please DO NOT watch the dubbed version, it will ruin the vibe
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Tight little movie based on the real events. Other reviewers above have expressed frustration at the slow tempo, lack of story context and budget.
First: The approach is very french in that you are expected to know some of the political context in which the story takes place. I have found that most of the people from France I know actually read newspapers, magazines and books and have a good grasp of both their history and current political affairs. Sadly, many Americans get their news exclusively from Fox.
The tangled and complex relationship between France and Algiers where the story begins would seem a mystery to North Americans, but (I would surmise) makes perfect sense to a french resident. The inept, corrupt mismanagement of the french government in this affair would also come as no shock to someone brought up in France and would need very little explaining to its native audience.
Secondly: The most expensive french film ever made could never rival an American super production. To its credit this film doesn't really try. It really doesn't need MORE and BIGGER explosions (especially when there were none during the actual event) to make its point. There is a lesson here for certain American producers.
THIRDLY: The cinematography, down tempo music score and tempo are obviously meant to create a bleak, depressing atmosphere.
In one of the first sequences, the French officer (Thierry) breaks in to a hostage situation and shoots the armed suspect only to find a woman hostage dead and a boy standing near her. He has arrived too late. He and the boy exchange a long look. I think we are meant to understand that the grim reality of his job is that these situations do not often turn out well.
This early scene sets the tone for the rest of the film, but also frames the ending, where, lying in a pool of his own blood, Thierry looks over and exchanges a very long look with one of the female hostages. The moment is not overdone. She doesn't crawl over to hold his hand or mouth a thank-you or anything. It is understood. Here is a man who sacrificed himself to obtain her freedom.
The film makers deliberately stretch out Thierry's agony, not revealing whether he lived or died all through the final shootout and all the way through to just before the credits. This was very well done.
Many French film makers have a different approach to what has become just another sub genre in American action films. This is something to be applauded all the more so because American film makers are no longer allowed to make these kinds of films.