Michael Mason (Richard Madden) is a talented pickpocket, financing his life in Paris that way. But then one night he steals the wrong bag from Zoe (Charlotte Le Bon) – a bag that contains a bomb. When it explodes, killing four people, it’s Michael who is hunted as a terrorist. He is arrested by CIA agent Sean Briar (Idris Elba) who reluctantly starts to believe Michael, but isn’t willing to let him go. Instead he enlists him to help in the hunt after the real terrorists and Michael doesn’t really have a choice but to do what Briar says.
Bastille Day is not groundbreaking, but it is a fast-paced and fun action film that uses its cast to the best advantage and has an excellent soundtrack. I enjoyed it.
Bastille Day very much follows the buddy cop trope, though I did find it interesting that it is Elba’s character much more than Madden’s character who is the rogue who doesn’t necessarily believe in doing things according to the rules. In the set-up with police officer/criminal it’s usually the other way round. But then again, Briar is basically a dialled-down version of John Luther, so the role is not too much of a departure for Elba, and we have seen the rouge cop many times before.
So, the film doesn’t break new ground when it comes to its characters or the setting or the story (though it is refreshing to see a film that is all about terrorism turning out not to be about evil muslims taking over the world; that has become way too rare) and even the cinematography sticks with the currently fashionable brown color scheme. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: well-executed tropes and clichés have their own charm. You may not be surprised, but you can lean back and enjoy it anyway. It’s only the very end where the film takes it a bit too far with an ending that doesn’t manage to pull off its own tropes anymore as it employs a trope that relies on the surprise factor.
Everybody seems to walk the well-trodden paths of what they’re good at and comfortable with in the film. That this doesn’t become too boring is mostly due to the soundtrack by Alex Heffes that proves yet again how important a good soundtrack is for a film. And I also enjoyed the song by Elba himself, together with Norman Cook that plays while the credits run (not that Elba is much of a singer but with that voice, you really don’t need to sing).
In the end there isn’t a boring moment about Bastille Day, the chase scenes and fight choreographies are nicely handled, the characters are engaging and I simply had fun, making it a more than satisfying experience.