The Take (a.k.a. Bastille Day), 2016.
Directed by James Watkins
Starring Idris Elba, Richard Madden, Kelly Reilly, Charlotte le Bon
Michael Mason, an American conman in Paris, is embroiled in a terrorist plot which leads him into the path of hard-edged CIA officer Sean Briar…
On the evidence of movies such as The Take, formerly released as Bastille Day (presumably before DVD marketers decided people wouldn’t know what ‘bastille’ meant), Idris Elba could be in serious danger of suffering a Liam Neeson-esque syndrome of action man fatigue. Jason Watkins’ action thriller (although there’s precious little of the latter) puts Elba in the kind of role he’s made his name on – John Luther from the BBC drama, basically, just repackaged and reheated with a far less interesting script, direction and concept. Here he’s Sean Briar, a CIA case officer stationed in Paris who is gruff, tough, brooding, doesn’t play by the ruleszzzzzz… oops, sorry, nodded off there for a second.
Maybe it’s because I’ve seen about five thousand variants on The Take (not Taken, by the way, absolutely not trying to be Taken…) that it’s all so bland. Maybe if you’ve never seen a straightforward, Gallic or European action movie, or indeed a few episodes of 24, you’ll think this is exciting, pulse pounding fare. All I know is that everything in this film has been done better, before, elsewhere, and while it’s executed perfectly solidly, it’s hardly the Hitchcockian-esque thriller Watkins even has the gall to reference in the six-minute featurette where he talks about making the movie. Hitchcock wouldn’t necessarily turn in his grave at The Take, but he’d certainly shake a jowl or two and say “you wish, mate.”
It’s got Robb Stark from Game of Thrones in it, aka Richard Madden, if that tickles your pickle. He’s a suave American conman called Michael Mason, a conman with a heart it turns out, implicated in a terrorist bombing who is bullied by Briar into helping find the real villains who, you guessed it, have a nefarious plan going down on the titular (or now, not) Bastille Day. Madden’s about as exciting a screen presence as he was playing Robb, in other words you’ll only really become excited when people start trying to kill him. He plays off Elba relatively well but you may end up wondering why they didn’t just cast Americans to play Americans, or just make them both British. You have (a slumming it) Kelly Reilly after all using her own tones, so why not these two guys?
Again, marketing, presumably. Everything about The Take is all about taking your money and running with it, serving up the most packaged and processed picture you can probably imagine, certainly in this well-worn genre. Let’s face it, Paris is hardly a city starved of action pictures over the last few decades, while Elba can do all this stuff in his sleep now; and while The Take may not put you to sleep, it may induce a slight daydream as it ticks on in the background while you surf Facebook. That’s clearly what it’s for, so take the opportunity.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★