Taut, forceful, ritualistic, and all those other flattering adjectives applied to thrillers that actually thrill, this skyjacking docudrama showcases yet another genre (in addition to shock horror) the French are kicking our asses in. The Assault is so tense, it seems to pass in a single held breath—so quickly, in fact, that you don't register its narrative flimsiness until later on. Directed and co-written (with Simon Moutairou) by newcomer Julien Leclercq, the film echoes United 93 in its real-time account of a real-life airline tragedy in the making. This time, it's the Christmas Eve 1994 hijacking of a Paris-bound Air France flight from Algiers by a quartet of Islamic fundamentalists (and likely patsies). As broadcast on live television, the plan was thwarted by members of the GIGN, France's paramilitary police force, many of whom were injured before freeing the 200-plus passengers and killing the terrorists. The cops are the story's emotional pegs—The Assault is practically a GIGN-recruitment film—and though it generally humanizes them, it also wallows in an underrealized plotline involving Thierry (Vincent Elbaz), a haunted officer whose opening-scene fuckup does all the film's metaphorical and political heavy lifting. More convincing are cinematographer Thierry Pouget's mercilessly leached-out palette, Aymen Saidi as the raving but rounded lead thug, and the impressive ease with which Leclercq switches between the airliner and government negotiations without sacrificing momentum. Better still are the bits in which Interior Ministry flunky Carole Jeanton (Melanie Bernier) upstages and outsmarts her antagonistic superiors and damn near saves the day.
Julien LeclercqVincent Elbaz, Grégori Derangère, Mélanie Bernier, Philippe Bas, Aymen Saïdi, Marie Guillard, Antoine Basler, Philippe Cura, Fatima Adoum, Hugo BeckerJulien Leclercq, Simon MoutairouScreen Media Films