ARIZONA REPORTER




Harvey Critic - 18/04

THE ASSAULT


If "The Assault," a French import, were turned into a Hollywood movie, it would be in full, blazing color rather than carrying the desaturated color that looks almost like black and white except for the blond hair of one hero's wife and the red clothing of her infant. But black-and-white does add drama to a thriller of this nature, forcing us to concentrate on the action rather than on the surrounding atmosphere. The English subtitles are easy enough to read, brief and to the point as is the entire picture directed by Julien Leclercq-whose "Chrysalis" in 2007 dealt with a cop's search in Paris for his wife' killer. This time the particular wife, Claire ( Marie Guillard), is shown several times too often with a shocked and anxious look on her face, her hands over her mouth as though to stifle a scream somewhat like our own Hillary Clinton who did the same while watching the Obama drama play out on a D.C. Presidential screen.


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THE ASSAULT (L'assaut)
Screen Media Films

Reviewed for Arizona Reporter by Harvey Karten

Grade: B
Director: Julien Leclercq
Screenwriter: Julien Leclercq, Simon Moutairou, from Roland Martins's book
Cast: Vincent Elbaz, Grégori Derengère, Aymen Saïdi, Mélanie Bernier
Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 3/15/12
Opens: April 6, 2012

One wonders why Claire's husband Thierry (Vincent Elbaz), a member of the SWAT-like elite French force known as GIGN, or Gallic Gendarmerie, volunteers to be first to enter a plane filled with hostages and commandeered by a quartet of terrorists who are members of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group. While the film does not specifically mention why these Algerian nationals sought to take off from Algeirs and to crash the French Airbus into the Eiffel Tower-considering that the Algerian War was decades old leaving the country independent of France-but we can surmise that the extremist body is similar to Al Queda interested in humiliating a key ally of The West. Whether they sought to free two Algerians held in jail as the supreme leader of the group insisted in Paris is unlikely, though welcome.

What is especially shocking is that one hundred passengers on Air France Flight were Algerians and just eighty-seven were French, plus a small assortment of other Europeans and one Vietnamese. Why would a terrorist group have such contempt for their own people? This reminds one of President Ahmadinejad's boast that he would erase Israel [the Zionist entity as he phrases it] from the map notwithstanding that a nuclear explosion could kill the one million Israeli Arabs plus tens of thousands of others living in Gaza and the West Bank.

To give the dramatization a human touch. Leclercq and co-writer Simon Moutairou, adapting Roland Martins's book, hones in on the family of Thierry whose wife and small daughter (Naturel Le Ruyet) are chatting about nothing in particular, though the little one refuses at first to kiss his dad. Carole (Mélanie Bernier), a high level member of the French ministry and a fluent speaker of Arabic-who turns out to be the most assertive and intelligent of the other (male) policymakers-is not keen on trying to negotiate with the terrorists but urges military action almost from the start. What we have then, is three divisions of the plot: one involves the airplane, filled with the shouts of Yahia (Aymen Saïdi), a hate-filled member of the Algerian Islamic Group; another focuses on Thierry's happy family; a third on the competition between Carole, who wants to make her mark with her superior officers, and the would-be negotiators who are following the action. To maintain variety, Leclercq cuts among the three divisions quickly, approaching the storming of the plane in real time.

One would hope that twenty minutes or so could have been added to give some backstory to Yahia, the head of the terror cell, explaining why he had such hatred for the French despite his country's independence. Nationalism shows up on the Algerian side, as the government of the North Africa state refuses permission for any French gendarmes to be on its soil. Editing is swift, the extremism of the Algerian leader is frightening, the confidence of the woman from the ministry comes off authentic. Almost all hostages were saved during the military action in the port of Marseilles, where the pilot landed after stating that the plane did not have enough fuel to go to Paris. The entire action, which took place over a 39-hour period in December 1994, is obviously a foreshadowing of the 9/11 tragedy in New York which took some 3,000 lives.

The full details of the hijack and its resolution are available on Wikipedia.org. on Air France Flight 8969.

Unrated. 95 minutes. © 2011 by Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online.

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