Personally I blame Paul Greengrass. Ever since his Bourne movies, action filmmakers have been falling over themselves to have the movie that looks most like the cameraman is having a seizure. And I know it may make me sound like a cretin, but shaky-cam is particularly problematic for foreign language films. When watching The Assault, trying to read the subtitles while the picture in the background is wobbling all over the place, really does make your eyes go funny.
The film is based on the true story of the 1994 hijacking of an Air France plane in Algeria by hardcore, anti-French Islamists, involved in the country’s civil war. Before the plane takes off, four men take control of the vehicle, leading to a tense stand-off on the tarmac. The hijackers demand to be allowed to take off for Paris, killing passengers in an attempt to get their ultimatums granted. Meanwhile in France, a crack team of special operations operative prepare to storm the plane – if they should get the chance, that is. As the situation gets ever tenser, the aircraft and its passengers are given permission to fly to Marseille, where the hijackers hope to get more fuel before they head on to Paris and their final objective.
The story of flight 8969 is an incredible one, and it’s almost odd that in its desire to be a mean, lean action-thriller, The Assault leaves out some of the movie interesting aspects of it. This is partly due to its desire to remain apolitical. It doesn’t really care why the hijackers are doing what they do, and instead concentrates on the events inside the craft and what it was like for the passengers, crew and those preparing to storm the plane. Personally I’d have preferred a bit of the bigger picture, but The Assault does a good job of creating tension and taking you inside the hijacking. You don’t learn a whole load about any of those involved, which works to a certain extent in allowing the audience to imagine themselves in that situation, although it does limit to overall impact of the film.
It’s a decent, if not earth-shattering action thriller, although if you dislike like the whole shaky-cam aesthetic, you’ll hate this as it’s shakier than most, to the point where it feel like the makers didn’t even know it was possible to keep a camera still. On Blu-ray it looks pretty good, showing off the deliberately desaturated image (to the point where some shots are pretty much black & white). It also makes good use of the surround sound elements, putting you in the thick of the action.
Overall Verdict: Flight 8969 is a fascinating tale, and The Assault takes you inside with a fair amount of tension. Pretty good as long as you don’t mind shaky-cam.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac