I’ll be the first to admit that I have something of a man-crush on Richard Madden, being both a Game Of Thrones fan and in love with all things Scottish. So when I left Bastille Day feeling extremely disappointed, it’s hard not to feel somewhat betrayed.
Despite being plastered all over the bus routes of old London town, I went into Bastille Day knowing effectively nothing about it, so it had every opportunity to impress. Sadly this opportunity was missed and I was subjected to one and a half hours of the most tortured and drab writing I’ve ever heard on screen (And I’ve seen the remake of Conan The Barbarian). The film painfully stumbles from one desperate dialogue exchange to another, almost all of which were attempts at humour that were met with awkward silence around 98% of the time. Idris Elba is completely wasted in this film, being forced into the shoes of a stereotypical maverick CIA badass who plays by his own rules but gets results. This discount Dirty Harry could’ve been played by literally anybody, so why Elba decided to sign on to such mundanity is beyond me. And mundane really is the word. The plot is some kind of Frankenstein affair, taking elements from the Bourne trilogy, Taken and to some extent Die Hard, yet in spite of this it remains inferior to all three and does very little to reignite the genre. And the characterisation is all over the place. Richard Madden’s pickpocket is supposed to be something of an everyman, but a big lump of expositional narration tells us there’s more to him than that. Your guess is as good as mine as to what it might be, because its never mentioned again.
Sadly the film is not entirely awful, so it’s difficult to get good and riled up about it. The action scenes are intense and thrilling, the best of which is deceptively simplistic roof-top chase sequence, devoid of any acrobatic freerunning yet edge-of-the-seat thrilling because of it. The core concept of inciting civil unrest through use of social media is an interesting one, but it is sadly poorly executed. After the phrase ‘release the hashtags’ was used I think all sense of seriousness was utterly lost on me. And it angers me that such great acting talent was wasted on such a boring, unimaginative script. Idris Elba is already receiving flak for this film, and he is absolutely not to blame. As this is the screenwriter’s first gig, I’ll cut him some slack, but this was a big opportunity which he wasted mercilessly, just as Robb Stark was in Game Of Thrones (tortured simile).
In the simplest terms, don’t waste your money on Bastille Day. There are far better releases at present, and this one was clearly just something to pay the bills. By all means watch the action scenes on YouTube, as they are extremely entertaining, but sadly not worth sitting through the entire film for.