Leclercq’s Gunfire Almost Enough To Wake You From A Bored Slumber
Based on the real life airliner hijacking that took place on December 24, 1994 in Algiers, director Julien Leclercq’s sophomore effort, The Assault does little more than make you wish you were watching any number of better hostage/terrorist films (Carlos immediately comes to mind). Sadly, the gritty material was horribly mishandled here. Rather than giving us a thorough back story on why a plane has been hijacked and the people behind the event, Leclercq has shoddily pieced together an overly melodramatic action/drama that instead poorly highlights the heroism of the SWAT team that saved nearly all of the 227 hostages on board flight 8969.
With hopes of taking down the Eiffel Tower, four armed members of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group hijack a flight bound for Paris, but after hours of negotiations, through hostage freeing, and hostage killing, they were granted permission to fly to Marseille for refueling. Little did the terrorists know that an assault team would be in place to raid the plane with hopes of rescuing the passengers. One of these team members is a father with a very worried wife. After failing to reach him via telephone, she anxiously watches the live news coverage as the event unfolds.
None of the characters seem important enough to even remember their name. As the bullets start to fly, the image is so shaky you can’t tell who has been hit, and the few moments that you actually can tell, you won’t care if they live or die. Let this film be a reminder that the audience will not automatically care for the strong leading man just because we know that he has a wife and kid. Nor should it be expected that hand held cinematography can be the sole provider of tension. Creating an annoyingly derivative drama that places a handsome man in the hero slot, and Arab religious extremists as the generic enemy (no matter how factual it may be) with no character development whatsoever is just flat out lazy.
At this point we’ve now been thoroughly exposed to the threat of terrorism, but The Assault just does not capture an honest emotional backbone of extremist belief that could actually bring a true feeling of fear to the picture that it really needed. Despite a couple of them being killed, I was never afraid for the passengers aboard flight 8969. This is not only due to the lack of characterization of the terrorists, but also to the over dramatization of the SWAT team member’s family. The loosely cut pieces just don’t fit together. Where is Olivier Assayas when you need him? Now, that fellow knows how to make a film about terrorists. Julien Leclercq? Not so much.