Based on the real life events of the 1994 terrorist hi-jacking of Air France Flight 8969, we follow a member of the GIGN, chronicling the 3 days of the attack. Thierry (Vincent Elbaz), is struggling with the stresses that his job is having on his marriage. Terrified for his safety, his wife, wants him to quit, but with a responsibility to his country he spends the days of the attack training his squad and then leading the final raid onto the aircraft at Marigname Airport. Told through the perspective everyone involved, including the terrorists, passengers, assault team and also on a political level, The Assault gives you a raw and extensive experience of the horrific event.
Made in close collaboration with the GIGN, Leclercq’s obvious choice to try and tell the story as close to the true life events as possible is one that you can respect, and it’s very successful in delivering a rounded and well informed story worthy of this incident. However, there’s a problem that arises when storytelling like this is used, because the film works much better as a recreation than an actual narrative. The lack of any real memorable characters leads to many empty and ineffective moments when we should be invested.
The positive side to the ‘real life’ aspect of that coin is that it keeps it grittiness and shock value throughout, the passengers’ fear that they could die at any moment is a powerful tool for any director and Leclercq’s uses it well. The influence of the a film like United 93 is pretty evident from the get go, attempting to try and bottle the incredible energy and atmosphere experienced in that film, but it never really feels like anything more than diluted and recycles version of it, which might of course have to do with the differing outcomes of each event, but the investment in the story never matches the level that was reached in Greengrass’ film.
But now onto the disc, the 1080p transfer is represented in its original 2.39:1 aspect ratio and it looks good. It’s a very grey film to begin with so the quality of image is all about the crispness of its definition and that more than makes up for the director’s colour palette choices. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 also gets a decent work out, there are flurries of chaos dotted throughout the film but it’s generally quite quiet. The final raid, however, will batter your eardrums into submission. Unfortunately, the only special feature available is a lonely trailer.
The Assault is a film that bathes in the tension of the anticipation of its final scenes, and they do deliver in the end, the bloody and violent climax being one of the only things in the film being entirely memorable. All in all through, it’s a well-made film, I can’t argue against that, but it lacks the weight and investment that a film of its type sorely requires.