DVD Review: The Assault

STUDIO: Screen Media | DIRECTOR: Julien Leclercq | CAST: Vincent Elbaz, Melanie Bernier, Aymen Saidi, Philippe Bas, Marie Guillard
DVD RELEASE DATE: 6/12/2012 | PRICE: DVD $24.98
SPECS: R | 95  min. | Foreign language action thriller | 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English with French subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

In the 2010 film The Assault, a cunning band of Muslim zealots highjacks a jetliner with the intention of crashing it into a famous Western landmark. No, it’s not set on Sept. 11, 2001, but December 1994, and this time the target is the Eiffel Tower. The taut French action-thriller depicts this real-life rescue mission by France’s version of the Navy SEALs, GIGN (famous among gamers of Counter Strike), whose heavily armed, highly trained soldiers must evacuate an Air France Airbus 300 with 212 passengers as it sits on a Marseilles runway waiting to fuel up and, after taking off, blow up central Paris.

The Assault movie sceneJust one problem: The four Algerian terrorists have enough bullets and bombs to wipe out the entire passenger list. And in their zealous passion for what they see as God’s duty, they begin executing random innocents to prove their determination.

Director Julien Leclercq employs the cold, nearly black-and-white hand-held cinematography that he used in his 2007 thriller Chrysalis. That gives The Assault‘s the imagery a once-removed feel, and it works very well for the climactic action sequence.

It’s here that he also slows down our perception of time and space — which puts us right in Vincent Elbaz’s GIGN officer Thierry’s black-visored helmet. While these sequences often seem like a first-shooter videogame, they are never played for anything less than utter realism.

Less effective are the standard “humanizing” scenes depicting Thierry’s troubled marriage and his, to our mind, difficult wife. Yes, their confrontations add drama to what is about to take place and make us care even more, but . . . meh.

The movie’s finale is refreshingly unglamorous for a hostage saga. It’s an ending that makes you think rather than making you cheer.

Unfortunately, the DVD has no special features, but the movie’s worth your time if you like this sort of thing.

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About Buzz

Buzz McClain reviews DVDs for Playboy magazine and is a former critic for Video Business magazine. But what he really wants to do is direct.