Bastille Day, film review: ‘Idris Elba is an American in Paris with a dodgy accent’

Bastille Day

Bastille Day - Credit: Archant

There are a number of arguments against Idris Elba being the next Bond and let’s not pretend being black isn’t one of them.

More to the point is that he is not posh – ex-public school boys have taken every other prominent role in British society; it’d be churlish to deprive them of the one that they might genuinely be born to fill.

Now Bastille Day arrives to add to the case that he is, as yet, only a moderately effective action hero. He’s imposingly big, can growl menacingly and deliver a quip: but he’s no Jason Statham.

In Bastille Day he is a CIA operative in Paris who teams up with a master pickpocket (Madden, Game of Thrones) to thwart a bomb plot before the French national holiday.

The plot is improbable and the interplay between the two leads is sometimes forced, but the action scenes are swiftly edited and kinetic, and it is passably enjoyable.

Before it started, the director, then the co-star, and eventually the star turned up on stage to introduce the film and assure us it was nothing more than a fun Friday night movie, an homage to 70s buddy movies.

Of course, like policemen suggesting there’s nothing to see here, the more they protested, the more curious I became.

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Why make a film about Americans, with a non-American cast and not enough convincing accents to go round? (At one point a French eyewitness describes Elba as being a black man with an American accent, which means she has more acute hearing than me.)

Probably because the film features the CIA covertly spying on their French neighbours.

Why name a fun Friday night movie after a holiday commemorating a decisive day in the French Revolution?

Because the film, which has a gang faking a terrorist bombing campaign to stir up racial tensions as cover for a bank robbery, is trying to slip in a sly little political message about the war on terror and modern inequality.

The problem is that the plot has to make so many improbable twists to accommodate these points it detracts from the subversive fun.

Rating: 3/5 stars.

The DVD release of Hitchcock/ Truffaut will be reviewed at

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