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The Outhouse at Tribeca Film Festival: THE ASSAULT (L'Assaut) & A QUIET LIFE (Una Vita Tranquilla)

Written by Royal Nonesuch on Tuesday, April 26 2011 and posted in Reviews

The Outhouse shows up at the Tribeca Film Festival to take a look at some of the most highly-anticipated independent films coming down the pike.  In this report, Royal Nonesuch takes a look at two solid pieces of genre entertainment: the true story of an international hostage crisis, and an Italian gangster unable to outrun his past!

Recently, Staff Writer Royal Nonesuch purchased a package of tickets to films screening at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.  This is the second of his reports from the festival. 

Directed by Julien Leclercq
Written by Simon Moutairou and Julien Leclercq
Narrative 95 min.

On Christmas Eve 1994, four Islamic terrorists hijacked Air France Flight 8969 on thethe_assault_saf01 runway at the airport in Algiers.   Two days later, in Marseilles, the French National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (GIGN), staged an assault on the aircraft, killing all four hijackers and saving all the hostages aboard.  The hijacking, which was eventually discovered to be a precursor to the tragically more successful 9/11 attacks in the U.S., exacerbated tensions between France and Algeria, as well as between Islamic fundamentalism and the Western world.  The rescue operation, however, was considered a resounding success due to the limited injuries sustained by both the hostages and by members of the GIGN.  It was also highly publicized, having been captured by nearby news cameras.

Director Julien Leclercq dramatizes the three day international stand-off in The Assault, which he made with the cooperation of the real GIGN.  Based largely on news reports and interviews with survivors, the film focuses largely on the events of the standoff themselves, and rarely extrapolates outside of that.  Leclercq recognizes that a terroristic hostage situation is already dramatic enough, and therefore doesn't need much more than that.  Using an omniscient point of view to look the most intently on Yahia (the hijacker ringleader), Thierry (the GIGN officer most severely injured in the attack), and a high-ranking bureaucrat at the French Ministry of Information, The Assault is really a film about people at work.  The characters focused upon by the film exist in an extraordinary circumstance, but are still just there to do their job.  The melodramatics are pared down to such an extent that when the GIGN stage their climactic raid on the airplane, reality becomes in a way heightened and the action violence has that much more of an impact. 

The look of the film is on one hand unassuming, and yet works as a choice.  It's all very grey; it looks like the film was chiseled out of concrete.  It complements the handheld immediacy of the camera work very well, and Leclercq does a great job of credibly defining the small space of the aircraft during the firefight.  Using the actual news footage in the film was an obvious choice, but it was the right one.  

The story of Air France Flight 8969 was basically begging to be made into a movie, and Julien Leclercq made the right one.  It sticks solely to the facts of what is known about those three days, and highlighted the methods that have led to this case being studied by SWAT teams and Special Forces all over the world. 

una-vita-tranquillaA QUIET LIFE (Una Vita Tranquilla)
Directed by Claudio Cupellini
Italy, Germany, France
Narrative 100 min.

All anyone really wants is a comfortable life to be lived without much trouble.  We also want our past acts not to affect our current lives too much.  So it goes with Rosario, played by Toni Servillo in Claudio Cupellini's A Quiet Life.  An Italian immigrant living in a small town in Germany, Rosario has a thriving hotel/restaurant business and a lovely family.  He's living the idyllic life so many of us want.   All is going well until two men from Italy come calling, and his violent past comes rushing back.

Italian cinema has a long history of capturing beautiful imagery in real life contexts, and the relationship between camera and action in this film is established by lovely tracking shots and the clever use of space to externalize the tense conflicts between individuals.  Told through the eyes of Rosario, the need to preserve life as he knows it at any cost is so palpable that he becomes a very sympathetic character (which puts the audience in a difficult spot, considering everything we learn about him and his past).         

A Quiet Life is a taut, suspenseful crime film with naturalistic performances and a story that arcs in a compelling, interesting way.  It really hammers home the way secrets and violence compound each other, and it paints a bleak picture of how inescapable the past is.  More than any of that, though, this film is really about families.  It's about how family shapes us, and how inexorable a march down a dark path, once it starts, cannot be deterred. 

Written or Contributed by: Royal Nonesuch

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About the Author - Royal Nonesuch

As Senior Media Correspondent (which may be a made-up title), Royal Nonesuch tends to spearhead a lot of film and television content on The Outhouse. He's still a very active participant in the comic book section of the site, though. Nonesuch writes reviews of film, television, and comics, and conducts interviews for the site as well.  You can reach out to him on Twitter or with Email.


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