01/05/2012. Contributed by Frank Ochieng
French filmmaker Julien Leclercq’s intense-driven thriller The Assault recalls the horrific 1994 hijacking of Air France Flight 8969 at the hasty hands of four Islamic terrorists. The Paris-bound plane was to depart Algiers as the diabolical hijackers had other perverse plans in mind—mainly to crash the plane into France’s world famous symbolic architectural structure The Eiffel Tower.
Naturally, The Assault’s real life captivating event in the mid nineties pre-dates the similarly themed horror show on American soil that was the atrocious 9/11 attacks as hatched by terrorising extremists. Obviously there will be comparisons of Leclercq’s harrowing foreign suspenseful narrative to that of Paul Greengrass’s engrossing account in United 93, another effectively startling airline hostage saga with ominous imprints of outrage and poignancy. Although there was a resolution to the Christmastime hostage crisis regarding the seized Parisian plane (and minimal damage as contrasted to the devastating outcome on that tragic 9/11/01 date for Americans), The Assault is still a politically potent footnote that radiated with disbelief and disgust in front of the world stage.
Based on the explosive book by Roland Montins and Gilles Cauture, The Assault dutifully delves into the emotional, mental and psychological stranglehold of the hijacking hysteria. The dramatic tension is indeed jarring and moviegoers will get caught up in the anxious moments as the stressful standoff elevates with every riveting scene unfolding. Leclercq astutely focuses his attention on the periled plane as the encased stationary setting percolating with fear, friction and fury.
The film has virtually a murky colourless canvas that visually heightens the macabre edginess. There is never an attempt to display any preachy prattle from the point of view of the treacherous captors or paint a loving portrait of the victimised passengers on board. The straightforwardness of the movie is blunt: the heart of the madness is the opportunistic terrorists’ operation—to promote their dangerous attention-getting cause in the name of religious derangement.
Through deceptive means, the terrorists pose as passport agents before taking control of the plane and revealing themselves as part of the Armed Islamic Group known as the GIA. Soon the chaos thickens as the involvement of the elite French commandos (the GIGN force) are assigned to the critical case. Remarkably, the edge-of-the seat microscope regarding this regrettable incident spreads like wildfire as an entranced world watches the disturbing procedures through news footage. The bewildered bureaucrats and other foreign political figureheads are baffled as to how to handle the ongoing conflict pertaining to the desperate terrorists’ demands. Can these conniving ruffians be appeased by a hearty payoff as a suggested solution? How can this hostile situation be handled without a barrage of military intervention?
Among the individualised personalities dragged into the searing scenario include a frustrated France government operative (Melanie Bernier) who feels slighted because she is not being tapped properly for her vital input. Also, a GIGN squad member (Vincent Elbaz) is called to duty but is conflicted because of his worrisome wife and young daughter who with good reason wants him to avoid being in the eye of the storm with this sensational news-making hijacking hoopla.
Gripping and showing capable depth as a throbbing thriller, The Assault’s defining achievement is its stark retelling of an 18-year old tragedy that captured the terrifying imagination of a shocked world-wide audience. Sadly, what took place on that Parisian plane in Algiers would be a mere precursor to the future growing global movement of radical religious terrorism and the compromised casualties that are the unwilling pawns in the sordid game of politics, protest and persecution.
The Assault (2012) Screen Media Films
1 hr. 35 mins.
Starring: Vincent Elbaz, Gregori Derangere, Melanie Bernier, Phillippe Bas, Aymen Saidi, Marie Guillard
Directed by: Julien Leclercq
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: International Mystery & Suspense/Thriller
**NOTE: Featured in the French language with subtitles
Critic’s Rating: *** stars (out of 4 stars).
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