Perhaps the textbook definition of a “wait for Netflix on a rainy Sunday afternoon” type of movie, the unambitious yet totally watchable Bastille Day is girded by Idris Elba’s entertaining performance above all else, even if it barely touches the sides going down.
When slick con artist Michael Mason (Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden) steals a woman’s (Charlotte Le Bon) bag only for it to contain a bomb which detonates in central Paris, he’s pursued by a determined anti-terror agent (Idris Elba) who wants to figure out the truth and prevent any future attacks.
Bastille Day certainly had potential to be a fun buddy action flick while also highlighting some truths about the nature of 21st-century terrorism (especially relevant in light of events over the last six months), but the overall result is a fairly bland hodge-podge of procedural thriller cliches and 24-style “find the bomber” nonsense.
This is pretty much just two episodes of a Jack Bauer sortie pasted together, and though it occasionally crackles thanks to Elba’s usual screen presence, it’s largely flat-footed and lacking in energy. The central terror plot is stock and boring, the character banter is more cringe-worthy than funny, and there’s a severe tonal clash between the humour and the seriousness of the terror threat. It’s a difficult balance to strike, and director James Watkins (Eden Lake, The Woman in Black) sadly can’t find it.
While Elba props things up, the rest of the cast are a mixed bag; co-lead Madden spends most of the film wrestling with an unnecessary American accent, and the lovely Kelly Reilly is totally wasted in a tedious supporting role. Sure, it’s fun watching Elba beat the snot out of assailants and fire some huge guns, but it’s the most fleeting and base of pleasures in a movie that could so easily have been more intelligent and insightful, because the seeds are certainly there.
By no means a bad film but simply not something made with much inspiration or interest from anyone involved, Bastille Day may satisfy low expectations even if its brief 92 minutes end up feeling much longer than that.
Bastille Day is in UK cinemas now