THE ASSAULT (which is American for L’ASSAUT) is almost like a French remake of DELTA FORCE. It’s based on the true story of a hijacking of a French airliner in Algeria. Four Muslim extremists posing as passport inspectors take control of the plane on the runway. They demand the release of two captured mujahadeen, and they try to fly the plane to Paris. But it takes them half the movie just to get the stairs detached from the plane, and then they find out they only have enough fuel to get to Marseille.
The movie switches between several vantage points: on the plane, and the tensions between the hijackers, the pilots and the various hostages. In France, where the authorities, and a plucky young woman from the state department (the French answer to ZERO DARK THIRTY’s Maya?) in particular, try to figure out the best response to the crisis. In a GIGN training facility, where elite counter-terrorist commandos prepare in case they need to storm the plane. At the home of one particular commando, where his wife worries about him never coming home and tries not to upset their daughter, who is too young to understand what’s going on.
Of course the title is THE ASSAULT and I read the back of the DVD so there’s a sense of inevitability. This ain’t PASSENGER 57 (also the title of a porno I’d like to see) so they’re not gonna try to come up with excuses for different action sequences. It’s a drawn out suspense yarn leading to what we know will be a relatively quick bit of extreme danger when they storm the plane.
One moment I thought was very effective was when the main commando guy is on an empty plane for a drill. He stands in the cockpit and practices with his gun, trying to picture what he’ll have to do, obviously nervous. It’s a hell of a “gulp” moment for him. And it cuts to one of the terrorists, in the same area of the other plane, praying.
That’s what’s so terrifying about these conflicts. These guys don’t know they’re the bad guys. They can look past all the crying people and the blood and see something holy. They’re not The Joker. They’re human. In the beginning they get dressed and ready and are nervous just like everybody else. One of them helps the younger one get his tie straight. One of them has a mother, who the negotiators bring out to try to talk some sense into him. She’s just like any mother, she’s horrified that her boy is doing this and begs him not to. But he’s like “Ma, git out of here!” Or the equivalent.
This is one of those movies where they drain so much color out that most of it is pretty much black and white. I always wonder why they don’t just make these in actual black and white, which I’m sure would look better. Maybe they wanted to but were contracted to shoot in color and figured they could get by on a technicality.
Anyway, it’s a solid procedural about a horrible event. Nothing real new or special, but pretty good. I don’t got much to say on this one. Sorry.