Film Review: The Connection

The Connection

Cédric Jimenez’s The Connection is an absorbing crime drama loaded with style. The cat-and-mouse dynamic offers increasing tension in this true story tale.

Pierre Michel is a rising French magistrate who is transferred to work in the organised crime unit in Marseilles in the 1970s. Pierre dedicates his time battling to bring down the notorious “French connection” drug ring, much to the displeasure of kingpin Tany Zampa…

Based on real events, The Connection focuses on the same organised crime outfit as William Friedkin’s The French Connection. Director and co-writer Cédric Jimenez focuses on a later period, and keeps the action rooted in Marseilles.

At the heart of The Connection is the chase of a criminal by a law officer, despite the wider implications of the drug ring in the film. The cat and mouse set up works well. With two French heavyweights in the protagonist roles, The Connection echoes Heat. The narrative is carefully crafted to retain the viewer’s interest. Audiences will have a fair idea of how the film will pan out, but the journey is sufficiently absorbing. The Connection‘s story is well crafted; exposition is dropped in early on to rear its head in a way which is unexpected.

Although the focus is on the story, The Connection‘s action sequences are executed well. There are some moments of real tension; Jimenez excels in building these scenes. The film features some good cinematography, particularly in the club scenes and across expansive landscapes. Music is used effectively to convey mood and to situate the changing era.

Leads Jean Dujardin and Gilles Lellouche both offer strong performances. Dujardin and Lellouche are believable in their roles, although the former has a meatier character. Casting in the supporting roles is also good.

The Connection offers both style and substance. It may not be remembered as a classic of the crime genre, but Jimenez’s film is certainly a worthwhile watch.

Film Review: The Informant

The Informant

Based on an autobiographical memoir, The Informant is a fascinating story. Unfortunately this is let down by its execution.

Living with his young family in Gibraltar, bar owner Marc Duval is struggling to make ends meet. When he is offered an opportunity to earn money as an informant for the French boarder control, Marc is reluctant, but the lure of financial stability is too great…

Julien Leclercq’s The Informant is interesting in that it is based on real events, despite how far-fetched they may seem at times. The story is well constructed. The narrative builds tension as the film progresses, and there is sufficient mystery and drama to keep viewers engaged.

Nonetheless, there is a lack of flair to Leclercq’s direction. At points during The Informant, aspects could have been made more dramatic or engrossing than they actually are. Music in the film veers into the melodramatic at times. Limiting the use and intensity of the score would have helped with this.

Given that the story originates from the viewpoint of the protagonist, it would not have been surprising if the film had been wholly one-sided. However, the depiction of Marc in The Informant is more nuanced than this. There are moments when the audience will feel for his predicament, and others which exhibit his shortcomings.

The Informant does lose its momentum slightly as the plot continues. Later scenes which should be wrought with tension, are merely perfunctory. Although the film dominantly concerns Marc, it would have been more satisfying if the supporting characters had been fleshed out more. Gilles Lellouche delivers a competent performance as Marc. Tahar Rahim is also decent as Belimane.

With The Informant, an important story has not been translated into an important film. The Informant is certainly watchable, although it feels like a missed opportunity.

Film Review: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is a joyous movie that offers whimsical charm. The film sets just the right tone and is a thoroughly enjoyable adventure.

In the early 20th century, writer Adèle Blanc-Sec travels to Egypt to find a mummified doctor to take back to Paris with her. She hopes her friend Professor Espérandieu can bring him back from the dead in order to help her ailing sister. Espèrandieu has other things on his mind however, as a pterodactyl stalks the streets of Paris…

Based on the comic books by Jacques Tardi, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is a very entertaining movie. Luc Besson’s film combines the right amount of adventure, mystery, humour and action. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet at the same time allows the audience to become absorbed by the action. There is a definite sense of mystery, and tension at times, but the film retains a lightness which is refreshing.

Part of the film’s charm is undoubtedly due to its period setting. Adèle Blanc-Sec is set in early twentieth-century Paris, although some scenes take place in other locales. There is a propensity for the fantastic that is allowed by this setting. The exoticness transports viewers into another world, one where fantasy is met with less disbelief.

Adèle herself is an amiable protagonist. In a male-dominated environment, she has a commanding presence. It is a nice change to see a heroine with intelligence, energy and beauty. Moreover, like the film, Adèle offers a tongue-in-cheek approach to her mission, despite the severity of it. Her individual manner is central to the film, and the character brings a great deal of heart.

The special effects used in Adèle Blanc-Sec work well within the confines of the film. They are not the most state of the art seen in recent cinema, but they are employed effectively. They add to the sense of charm, particularly in the later museum scenes. Those expecting Hollywood blockbuster production values may be disappointed, but the film stands out with its visual style. Costumes are wonderful, as are the set design and art direction.

Louise Bourgoin is excellently cast as Adèle. She conveys just the right attitude, as is entirely convincing in the role. Jacky Nercessian also looks the part as Professor Espérandieu, while Gilles Lellouche brings humour as Inspecteur Caponi.

Adèle Blanc-Sec is reminiscent of the Indiana Jones films in its style of adventure, but offers uniqueness with its setting and visual style. Highly recommended.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is released on DVD and Blu-Ray on 15th August 2011.

Film Review: Point Blank

Point Blank is a lively French thriller that should entertain most cinemagoers. The film’s frenetic pace makes up for its lack of depth.

Samuel Pierret is a nurse living with his heavily pregnant wife. When Samuel saves the life of thief Sartet, his wife his taken hostage. In order to ensure her safe return, Samuel must spring Sartet from the hospital. Things don’t go according to plan, and both Samuel and Sartet face a race against time and their enemies…

Point Blank offers a fairly standard narrative for the action thriller genre. Some of the film’s twists and turns are incredulous, which seems like a prerequisite of the modern thriller. Nevertheless, these shortcomings can be forgiven as does a good job of entertaining throughout.

There is a distinct lack of character development in Point Blank; the action commences very quickly and there is little downtime from this. However, the lack of depth actually works in the film’s favour on this occasion. Functioning as an everyman, it is not difficult to identify with Samuel Pierret. The protagonist’s motivations and actions are completely understandable given the context. The fact that he is just an average man heightens the perilousness of the situation.

Similarly, very little is revealed about Sartot. The ambiguity of this character serves to retain a sense of mystery for most of the film. There is a real sense of threat, which is exacerbated by Pierret’s heavily-pregnant wife Nadia. With all the twists, it is difficult for both Pierret and the audience to judge who to trust. Sartot is at the centre of this nebulousness; his role in proceedings remains unclear until the finale.

Director Fred Cavayé exhibits a fluid style that is pivotal to the film’s momentum. The camera work is kinetic, and at times dizzying with its frequent hand-held shots. This works well, however, when combined with the booming soundtrack. The sense of urgency is really portrayed both visually and aurally. The only real letdown is the security footage, which looks hopelessly staged.

Gilles Lellouche expresses appropriate tension and intensity as protagonist Pierret. Roschdy Zem makes a sombre ally as the ambiguous Sartot. His mannerisms effectively convey the coldness he shows at certain points in Point Blank. Gérard Lanvin tries to bring some presence to the rather one-dimensional police detective Werner, and Elena Anaya has little to do besides look frightened.

Point Blank is not the most original of thrillers. But the film is short and sweet, which makes it a more pleasurable watch than a number of other recent additions to the genre.