23 May 2011

The Assault

Directed by Julien Leclercq
Written by Julien Leclercq & Simon Moutairou
Full credits at IMDb

The Assault (L'Assaut), with its gorgeous black-and-white recreations of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group's 1994 hijacking of an Air France flight, looks like a Tom Ford-directed documentary about terrorism. Director Leclercq suspensefully, sensationalistically cross-cuts between the government's backroom operations, special forces' preparation and the tense mood on the plane between hostages and hostage-takers; that is, he reduces a real-life terrorist event to a stylish Hollywood thriller, set to dramatic swells of Middle Eastern music; he even creates a hero—one of the French commandoes—and carelessly explores his relationship with his wife and impossibly cute daughter. Leclercq also builds to a rousing finale, in which the plot to crash a plane into the Eiffel Tower is foiled by highly trained military personnel. The director seems to want to establish the French's badass, terrorist-battling bona fides—hey, we saved our tower—in the most riveting but trashiest way imaginable, with its beautiful slow-motion deaths. Filtering actual terrorism through Hollywood cliches isn't just distasteful—it's fucking immoral, stripping real tragedy of its heft. Grade: C-

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