Thursday, 11 February 2016
I watched this last week whilst visiting friends in the area of France where a lot of the action was filmed around La Turbie above Monaco, Villefranche-sur-Mer and on the streets of Nice. It's amazing how use of clever camera angles and good editing can morph disconnected reality into something completely believable.
This is an action film with plenty of car chases, shootings and explosions. I read somewhere that 80 cars were written off in the making of the film. The story is quite simple. A number of former special operatives are brought together to secure a briefcase that is heavily guarded. We never discover what's in the case - it simply acts as a MacGuffin to give the rest of the plot something around which to orbit.
This is a film where the viewer needs to pay attention because there are many players and the plot keeps twisting and turning. It is difficult to know whom to trust. The different groups wanting the case are simply referred to as 'The Russians' or 'The Irish' and then there are of course the independent mercenaries trying to make a fast buck.
The film is set entirely within France - mainly in Paris and Nice. There are regular car chases with seemingly impossible stunts. The way the story unfolds invites the viewer to develop a fondness for the team trying to obtain the case and in particular for the characters Sam (Robert De Niro) and Vincent (Jean Reno). The former KGB agent Gregor (Stellan Skarsgard) succeeds in making you loathe him and each time he escaped a bullet I must confess I felt disappointed.
Morally and ethically this film is intentionally a muddle - such is the world of espionage. That we need people like this to operate in a bubble beyond the law is regrettable yet the work they do bears fruit for all - an interesting point to discuss. The final outcome was rooted in reality as it directly brought about the possibility of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland. Does that mean that in this instance the means justified the end? As I said, it is a murky world.
John Frankenheimer's Direction is excellent with exciting camera angles, frequent car chases and an ensemble cast that melds together to produce a performance that is greater than the sum of its parts. If the film has any real weaknesses they lie in the script and patchy dialogue - De Niro's Sam gets all the good lines. This is a good action film with plenty of exciting car chases. I'll give it 7/10.