Certificate 15, 92 minutes
Director: James Watkins
Stars: Idris Elba, Richard Madden, Kelly Reilly
Bastille Day opens at Sacré-Cœur in Paris with a young woman walking naked through the crowd. Naturally, this garners a lot of, especially male, attention, and everyone is staring at her - and filming her too. This is intentional; she's a distraction paid for by Michael Mason (Richard Madden), a pickpocket who, whilst everyone's' attention is focused on his naked accomplice, steals a variety of personal items from the crowd.
At the CIA Surveillance Unit in Paris, Special Agent Sean Briar (Idris Elba, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Pacific Rim) is getting a bit of a dressing down, although his boss, Karen Dacre (Kelly Reilly), had stuck up for him and got him the post. He's considered to be reckless, irresponsible and insubordinate, and broke cover in a recent operation, which resulted in a female intelligence "asset" (person) being killed.
In a room elsewhere in Paris, a man, Rafi (Thierry Godard), is convincing what is presumably his girlfriend, Zoe (Charlotte Le Bon) to plant a bomb concealed in a teddy bear at the headquarters building of the French National Party in order to make a point. Rafi convinces her that no-one will get hurt, as the building will be empty at that time of night. When she gets in, a cleaning crew surprise her. Rather than have innocent people die, she takes the bag containing the bomb out of the building, planning to dispose of it in the river.
Rafi's accomplices, led by Victor Gamieux (José Garcia) still claim responsibility for the attack, as they are after chaos in the city, and an explosion with four deaths suits their purposes, and threaten that they will bring the city to its knees in 36 hours during the Bastille day celebrations; with more explosive devices, it is presumed. Briar is sent to find Mason and bring him in, but to do it discretely (not something Briar is famous for). They don't tell the French directly, because the CIA don't want the French to know that they are spying on them (although it seems highly unlikely that they wouldn't at least suspect that was happening).
Briar catches Mason, who says that all he is is a pickpocket, and that he had nothing to do with the bomb. He has Zoe's phone, and offers this up as evidence; unfortunately, Rafi's fellows are tracing the phone and arrive at the CIA location, and they prove to be surprisingly well equipped. Although, at first glance, this seems like a pretty standard plot - terrorists convince a naive and idealistic woman to help them out, so that they can bring terror to the city, it isn't. Instead, they are connected to the French police and, although they want to bring chaos to Paris, they want to do so for their own ends, and are stirring up all parties involved, to bring open conflict to the streets.
In order to prove his innocence, Michael has to help Briar find Zoe, so that she can tell them what is going on. At this point, everyone still believes it's a terrorist plot. Briar, having a known tendency to go his own way, despite his orders, goes off script yet again and doesn't do what he's supposed to be doing, which is to simply find Michael and bring him in. So, Michael and Briar end up travelling around Paris, causing a whole lot of devastation in their wake, as Michael is targeted by the French police for the bomb attack, and the police don't seem to feel any need to talk to him.
There are extensive sections in French - where French people are talking to each other, they do so in French, not English; not something that every film does - which means there are subtitles, so it's important to concentrate on what the subtitles say in those scenes. Although, rather oddly, the subtitles don't always match up exactly to what is being said (such as the French being "terroriste", meaning terrorist, whilst the subtitles say "bomber", or the French being "maximum" - the word is identical - whilst the subtitles say "Code Five").
There is a twist to the plot, but it's an obvious one that can be seen coming. Admittedly, not long before it happens, but you can predict it happening quite easily. Prior to that, there was no evidence to support the twist, but just before it happened, it was quite obvious it was going to, as it's an overused device. Idris Elba is impressive enough as a pure action star - not one of his more usual roles - and the interaction between him and Madden works well enough as the comedy sidekick routine.
This is another film in which only the Americans, in this case the CIA, can save the day. Even Michael is an American pickpocket, not a French one (admittedly, it would have been a bit unrealistic to have them talking in English all through the film if they were French, when all the other French people were using French between themselves). What makes this odd is the film doesn't seem to be really targeting an American audience (at this point, a U.S. release date hasn't even been announced, and it isn't using American actors. Much of it is same old, same old; Americans, personified mostly by the stereotypical "rogue cop" (in this case, agent not cop), rush in to fix the problems in another country. Bastille Day is an okay film, but it brings nothing new to the table (and possibly having what are apparently terrorist attacks in Paris is a bit insensitive).