Bastille Day (2016) Review

Keeva Stratton

Film Expert

By Keeva Stratton

A pickpocket steals more than he bargains for, when a bag he takes contains a deadly bomb.


Paris is a city on edge after suffering a spate of terrible terrorist attacks, and it would seem it doesn’t take a lot for it to be tipped over.

Michael Mason (Richard Madden) is a highly adept pickpocket; and after a very successful night plundering the pockets of the city’s unsuspecting, he can’t resist one final flutter. It’s a deadly mistake.

When he steals what at first appears to be a luxury handbag, he couldn’t have known that its contents—a bomb—would make him Paris’s most wanted man.

When the bomb explodes, killing four people, a manhunt for Mason is set in place. A CIA covert team lead by Sean Briar (Idris Elba) is charged with finding the American before the French do. But, all is not at it seems.

The true terrorists are at large, and a carefully planned campaign that exposes existing racial and political tensions is being capitalised on as a diversionary tactic. Briar finds the target of his manhunt. But, convinced that there is more to this than meets the eye, he and Mason set about on a mission to find the true terrorists before a planned Bastille Day attack takes place.

Bastille Day is a slick action thriller that utilises some of the contemporary narratives surrounding modern terrorism, asking its audience to question our willingness to make quick assumptions. It begins well, and the playful repartee between Elba and Madden as unlikely partners in crime makes for entertaining viewing.

Unfortunately, just as the set-up is about to pay off, the wheels start to fall off—and soon this well-laid plot enters car crash territory. As far as action films go, the raised expectations of the first half of the film arguably heighten the disappointment of the clichéd finale.

Elba is clearly one of this generation’s most gifted actors (is it time to raise his name as Bond once more?). In the hard-hitting TV series Luther, he showed us how complex and engaging he can be. He needed more of that calibre of writing to take this character further—but if you’re a fan of CIA style thrillers, and are willing to forgive a little Hollywood indulgence, you will find easy enjoyment in Bastille Day.

Director: James Watkins

Stars: Idris Elba, Richard Madden, Kelly Reilly.

Runtime: 92 mins

Release Date: 12 May

Rating: R

Reviewer Rating: 3/5


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