Ter­ror in Paris, pigs in bird­land

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews -

‘You were com­ing after me. Have you seen your­self?” So says pick­pocket Michael Ma­son to CIA agent Sean Briar, ex­plain­ing why he ran away from him. Any­one watch­ing will have no cause to won­der what he means: Briar is played by the tall, mus­cu­lar English ac­tor Idris Elba, putting in an­other ath­letic, men­ac­ing and witty au­di­tion for the role of James Bond. It’s an ex­change typ­i­cal of the ter­rific di­a­logue in James Watkins’s Paris-based crime thriller Bastille Day, and also un­der­scores the great chem­istry be­tween the stars, Elba and hand­some Scot­tish ac­tor Richard Mad­den, best known as Robb Stark in the tele­vi­sion se­ries Game of Thrones. Be­fore we go on, I’d be as happy as any­one to see Elba with a licence to kill but my 007 vote goes to his com­pa­triot Tom Hid­dle­ston. If you haven’t seen him in the re­cent TV adap­ta­tion of John le Carre’s 1993 novel The Night Man­ager, do so be­fore mark­ing your bal­lot pa­per.

English direc­tor Watkins had a hit in 2012 with the pe­riod hor­ror movie The Woman in Black, star­ring a post-Harry Pot­ter Daniel Rad­cliffe. Bastille Day deals with more con­tem­po­rary ter­rors, ones that are heavy in mind, espe­cially in Paris fol­low­ing the ter­ror­ist at­tacks there in Novem­ber that killed 130 peo­ple. The ig­ni­tion here is a bomb in­side a teddy bear. It goes off at Place Pi­galle, killing four peo­ple. It was dis­carded there, be­side a rub­bish bin, by Mad­den’s pick­pocket, in­side a bag he stole from a young woman. The woman, Zoe Nav­ille (Char­lotte Le Bon), had in­tended to plant it at the head­quar­ters of the right-wing Na­tional Front but changed her mind when she saw clean­ers still in the build­ing.

The bomb­ing scene is par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive, not least be­cause it is so or­di­nary. This is the world we have be­come used to. The pick­pocket, who is Amer­i­can, be­comes the chief sus­pect, caught on street se­cu­rity cam­eras. A left-wing group claims to be be­hind the blast and vows to “bring the city to its knees” in the 36 hours un­til the Bastille Day hol­i­day. But are bank-hat­ing left­ists re­ally re­spon­si­ble for this, or are Mus­lim ter­ror­ists? Or some­one else al­to­gether?

All of this brings the CIA agent into the ac­tion. His in­ter­nal re­port de­scribes him as “reck­less, in­sub­or­di­nate and ir­re­spon­si­ble to­wards hu­man as­sets”. Whether we be­lieve this or not, he does seem to be on the eth­i­cal mar­gin, a bit like Idris’s su­perb TV de­tec­tive Luther. His job is to find and in­ter­ro­gate the Amer­i­can bomb­ing sus­pect be­fore the French do. The French have their own plans, which are in­te­gral to the plot.

What fol­lows is a drama lifted by an en­ter­tain­ing script, old-fash­ioned ac­tion scenes and a few sur­pris­ing twists. Big Elba chas­ing not-as­big Mad­den over slanted Parisian rooftops is won­der­ful to watch. No Ja­son Bourne here, just des­per­ate men scrab­bling over loose tiles and scar­ing off roost­ing birds in the way. “Are you in love? Are you writ­ing a novel?’’ Idris asks on pin­ning down his quarry. “What the f..k are you do­ing in Paris?” In an­other en­gag­ing scene the pick­pocket shows his cap­tor how he does his trade. This is a slick, clever film, and while view­ers will work out who the real bad­die is be­fore the end, Elba and Mad­den in­vest their char­ac­ters with in­ter­est­ing unan­swered ques­tions.

Direc­tor Watkins does the same with broader ques­tions about the fragility of our con­scious­ness in times of ter­ror. He doesn’t push it too far — this is an en­ter­tain­ment-first, Fri­day night film — but there’s enough to think about af­ter­wards, as you head off in search of a shaken mar­tini. I laughed more dur­ing The An­gry Birds Movie than I have at any film for a while. My 10-yearold co-viewer, who also had fun, later said it was be­cause the main char­ac­ter, a no-non­sense bird named Red, was like me. I’d like to think he was just re­fer­ring to Red’s thick black eye­brows, but I sus­pect there’s more to it than that. “Pluck my life,’’ Red de­clares when he is sent to anger man­age­ment classes fol­low­ing his rash be­hav­iour at a young bird’s hatch day party. Un­der­stand­able rash­ness, I de­clare! I best not men­tion the knock­out scene where he re­sponds to a kid bird kick­ing a soc­cer ball against his house …

This film is based on the glob­ally suc­cess­ful Fin­nish smart­phone game that won fans young and old. It’s the first-time fea­ture of di­rec­tors Clay Katis and Fer­gal Reilly, both long-time stu­dio an­i­ma­tors. And that ex­pe­ri­ence shows: the an­i­ma­tion is ex­cel­lent, down to the de­tail of the birds’ feath­ers. “They just walk around naked?” Red says of the vis­it­ing (and evil) pigs, in an­other in­tem­per­ate but ac­cu­rate out­burst.

The game ba­si­cally in­volved fir­ing birds from a sling­shot to de­mol­ish build­ings oc­cu­pied by pigs. That cer­tainly comes into play in the high­stakes cli­max, but the di­rec­tors and screen- Bastille Day; writer Jon Vitti have cre­ated an in­ter­est­ing story first. Red is a bit of an out­sider on Bird Is­land, though he makes friends in anger man­age­ment classes with fleet yel­low Chuck, ex­plo­sive black Bomb and huge, tac­i­turn Ter­ence, who is also red. The ac­tors be­hind these birds are Ja­son Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride and, in an awe­some bit of cast­ing, a gruffly silent Sean Penn. Run­ning the calm down class is Matilda (Maya Ru­dolph), and she has se­ri­ous is­sues.

When the bright green pigs, led by hip­ster bearded Leonard (Bill Hader), ar­rive on the is­land by boat, declar­ing it’s time to “join hoof and wing”, only Red is sus­pi­cious of their real mo­tives. He may have read Ge­orge Or­well’s An­i­mal Farm. The re­sult is a bat­tle, first with the pig-ac­cept­ing other birds and then, glo­ri­ously, with the swine. Pos­si­bly cen­tral to the out­come is the mys­te­ri­ous Mighty Ea­gle (Peter Din­klage), a reclu­sive bird who alone has the abil­ity to fly. The long scene when Red and his co­horts first meet Mighty Ea­gle is hi­lar­i­ous in an un­ex­pected way. “He’s kind of a wack­adoo­dle,’’ is the avian as­sess­ment, “but it doesn’t mean he’s not wise.”

There are also a few cin­e­matic spoofs for the older view­ers, such as a brief riff on Stan­ley Kubrick’s The Shin­ing, but I laughed more at the ju­ve­nile jokes. This is a fun film for kids, but it also bends the rules just a lit­tle in favour of its hot-headed — and noble-hearted! — main char­ac­ter.

Idris Elba as CIA agent Sean Briar, left, and Richard Mad­den as pick­pocket Michael Ma­son in a scene from be­low, Chuck and Red on the beach in The An­gry Birds Movie

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.