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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 04.06.12] France action thriller

Year: 2012
Directors: Julien Leclercq
Writers: Simon Moutairou, Julien Leclercq
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 6 out of 10

For the record, I think Julien Leclercq is a stellar filmmaker. His style is always visceral and intense, even in quieter moments, and his focus seems always on the internal emotional conflicts if his characters. His last film, the cyber falvoured Chrysalis (review), betrayed the same assured sense of craft, but unfortunately like it, L'Assault falls a little short of engaging the viewer in the ways you'd expect or hope.

Remember Air Force One? Man, when those terrorists took over that airplane it was quite the fun romp wasn't it? Gary Oldman was at his craziest and Harrison Ford did that holding up his finger thing. Great movie. Well forget all that Hollywood jazz, because L'Assault is like the flip side of that escapist coin. It's based around the real-life hostage taking of 200 passengers on Air France Algiers in 1994 and Leclercq takes great pains to go for realism which is what he does best and why I think L'Aussault might be a little better than Chrysalis at the end of the day.

The set up is well done. We're introduced to Thierry, a member of a kick ass French SWAT Team. He's conflicted. Torn between duty and family, though you get the sense he's more than capable of succeeding at both. He's troubled by the violence of what he does and has trouble turning it off when he's in home mode. When his unit is called out following the hijacking, there is a teary eyed moment but he's a man of action, so he's off.

This is when the movie should have pulled us it. The stakes are clear. The conflicts are set. Unfortunately, L'Aussault is not content to be a simple film about a man storming a plane to take on evil and finding himself in the process. WE want to get to that plane, but instead the script goes off in tangents, bringing in politicians, secret service agencies and terrorist leaders that we don't care about and we just plain have to wait until the last act to get back to our hero. It's unacceptable, really. It's seriously agonizing watching a film leave its dramatic centre behind for as long as this does. But alas it's the film's downfall. Because by the time it picks up the ball again, we're out.

And it's too bad too, because the final act is so well done. Combining real footage with Leclercq's masterfully staged reenactment makes for some truly stellar filmmaking.

Ah, well.

Ultimately, L'Aussault makes a bold statement about Leclerq's talents and I can easily recommend on that level. But the story goes in directions that you just don't want it to. It loses it's dramatic core in favour of following side characters that bring little to the story.

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