DVD Review: The Assault (L’Assaut)
On Christmas Eve, 1994 in Algeria, an Air France flight was hijacked by an Islamic group called GIA. It is claimed that it was GIA’s intention to blow up the plane over the Eiffel Tower and even though it thankfully never got that far, this unfortunate incident led to three passengers losing their lives. Julien Leclercq’s film attempts to give an account of the events leading up to those sorrowful days.
Four terrorists, armed to the teeth, from the Algerian Islamic Group take control of Flight 8969 at Algiers Airport which is bound for Paris. The motivation of these men is unclear but it is assumed that it is to target a Parisian landmark. The 227 passengers fear for their lives as the terrorists make threats which they are not afraid to carry out. It’s up to the SWAT team and Carole (Melanie Bernier) the French Interior Minister to bring this, if possible, to a peaceful end.
The performances are on the whole solid; including Vincent Elbaz as Thierry the SWAT officer and Melanie Bernier as Carole; with no-one particularly standing out; conversely however, no-one is totally out of their depth. Leclercq’s direction is commendable as he handles the tragic events with compassion as well as weaving the back-story of Thierry, the French Interior Minister’s struggles and the terrorists’ motivations into the plot. The other factor that Leclercq handles brilliantly is that he does not seem to be forcing a political belief or an agenda. He keeps away from the rights and wrongs of ‘negotiating with terrorists’ and the politics involved from both sides. All the director is doing is recounting a horrific event that will be part of French History forever.
The explosive action sequences are sensitively handled… whilst good to watch and superbly performed (from a film perspective) it’s never glorified or too stylised, leaving a sense of sadness that there was very little chance of a peaceful, non-violent ending.
The Assault is not without its problems; the first of which is due to the film re-telling events meaning the usual character development is not as applicable in the same way it would other movies. The other problem is whether a film like this will stir and encourage the Anti-Islamic supporters in France to rear their heads (and this without going into the whole Burqa debate).
Such was the impact and effect this had on France, the storming of Flight 8969 was aired live on TV to over 21 million TV viewers, so it was only a matter of time before this was made into a feature length movie.
The Assault is an interesting watch and with inevitable comparisons to United 93, the movie comes across as an 88 plus minute mini history lesson. It’s far from totally engaging but those aforementioned factors of solid performances and only a desire to tell a story is what will keep the non French and others who do not remember or never knew about the said incident, fairly interested.
FMV Rating ***