The Assault (2011)






THE SCOOP
Director:  Julien Leclercq
Cast:  Vincent ElbazGrégori Derangère, Mélanie Bernier.
Plot:  A reenactment of the 1994 hijack of an Air France plane on the grounds of Algiers by terrorists.

Genre:  Action / Thriller
Awards:  -
Runtime:  95min
Rating:  M18 for violence and religious references.

IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
The Assault brings us back in time to 1994 when four members of the GIA, an armed Islamic group, infiltrated a departing Air France passenger jet and held about 200 people hostage on the grounds of Algiers. 

Based on true events, albeit slightly loosely, this French action-thriller dramatizes the life-and-death scenario of a terrorist plot from both the perspective of the terrorists and the GIGN, a French special forces team preparing for an assault to free the hostages and to kill the enemies.

The result is a solid action film that is violent when it needs to be, but is not quite memorable when it also needs to be, especially when looking at the film through a historical lens. 

Director Julien Leclercq inserts clips of the actual news footage of the incident in question in the nail-biting climax to heighten the immediacy of the fate of the GIGN team and the hostages, cutting back and forth among scenes of French bystanders looking anxiously at the television news coverage and the re-enactment of the assault led by GIGN officer Thierry (Vincent Elbaz).

Watching The Assault reminds me of Paul Greengrass’ United 93 (2006), a masterpiece of a film that visually accounts for the tragic “fourth plane” that was hijacked by terrorists on 9/11, but failed to hit an intended American landmark, and instead burst into flames as it crashed into an open field, killing everyone on board. 

Leclercq shoots The Assault in a gritty, shaky-cam style ala Greengrass, but also finds time to insert slow-motion sequences of bullets penetrating bodies during the bloodbath. Color is intentionally desaturated to the point of being almost black-and-white, giving the film a dark and disquieting look.

The lead performance by Elbaz is average at best and does not quite pull the film along during its quieter moments. The anticipation of what happens during the assault is what engages us to continue watching, and I must say that it is met with satisfaction. Though Leclercq tries to eschew political commentary, he makes indirect remarks about the issue of gender in socio-politics and the injustice of giving out rewards to those who least deserved it. 

The Assault is a film that has taut action sequences, some quite harrowing material, and just enough suspense to chill us. It is entertaining for most parts, but it fails to overwhelm us in any way.

GRADE: B (7.5/10 or 3.5 stars)






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