The Assault

The Assault (L'Assaut)
Made in: France
Language: French
Director: Julien Leclercq
Starring: Vincent Elbaz, Grégori Derangère, Aymen Saïdi, Fatima Adoum, Mélanie Bernier, Jean-Philippe Puymartin
Year: 2010

Synopsis: In 1994 on Christmas Eve, four gunmen from the Armed Islamic Group (Groupe Islamique Armé, or GIA) take control of an Air France passenger jet in Algeria. The plane, Flight 8689, is bound for Paris, France.

The Algerian government tries negotiating with the hijackers, who are stalled because the boarding steps to the aircraft haven't been removed. As the tense standoff unfolds, the passengers are kept in a constant state of terror as the French government mulls its next move. Wrought with massive political implications, the Algerian authorities refuse to allow any armed forces from France to intervene or assist.

Following the execution of several passengers, an agreement is finally reached two days later to allow Flight 8689 to leave for France (where the conflict will be under the jurisdiction of the French government). After being held in Algeria for many hours, the aircraft had burned most of its fuel and is only able to make it to Marseille.

There, soldiers from France's elite special operations group, the GIGN (Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale - or National Gendarmerie Intervention Group) has been preparing a daring rescue.

The terrorists demand that Flight 8689 be refueled, but the amount of fuel they ask for is way more than is needed for a flight to Paris. Analysts in the French government soon realize that the terrorists' ultimate goal is to crash the plane into the Eiffel Tower, and decide that immediate action must be taken.

So the GIGN is given the green-light to execute their daring assault on Flight 8689...

The Good: The Assault is a highly intense action/thriller/docudrama. The actors are great, and the tension throughout the film is consistently riveting. Although the terrorists are justifiably vilified, their destructive radicalism is portrayed with humanity rather than caricature.

In a short amount of time, director Julien Leclercq gives the audience a clear look at why these terrorists believe as they do, as well as the sheer amount of energy and determination it takes to sustain that level of fanaticism.

The build-up to the claustrophobic final showdown is highly anticipated, and cinematically speaking, it pays off.

The Bad: From a narrative point of view, The Assault is very straightforward. All the tension and added dramatization of the characters (which may or may not have actually taken place) can't hide the fact that the plot is very thin.

Parts of the final shootout are awkwardly edited, and it's often hard to tell where everyone is. There are also a few technical inaccuracies regarding the final shootout, which you can discover if you compare the film to the actual story. Just look up Air France Flight 8689 on Wikipedia and you'll see what I mean (assuming Wikipedia is telling the truth).

Who would like this film: The Assault is for you if you like intense action movies and stories that involve terrorist plots. Despite its thin storyline, this film will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Whether or not the dramatic elements involving the characters is accurate or complete BS is anyone's guess, but it's well-constructed and tells a compelling story. In other words, watch this for the sake of seeing a kick-ass action movie, but go to Google if you want to find the find out what really happened.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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