24 Days

****1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

24 Days
"Always there is tension."

"Based on a true story" is a euphemism for bollocks. Movies have structure, heroes and villains, emotional hooks, sentimentality and logic, if you're lucky. Truth is another kind of awful. Messy as hell.

24 Days is different. You could say it has been made in a documentary style, which means fly-on-the-wall grit with hand held cameras and gut wrenched actors who indulge in Method mumbling. Or you could say it does none of these things. The cinematography and the performances are faultless.

Copy picture

It feels like the real deal.

The cops make mistakes. The baddies are dysfunctional and out to lunch most of the time. Their so-called leader is a brute from the Ivory Coast who displays psychotic tendencies.

A handsome 24-year-old who works in his father's electrical store, selling mobile phones, is lured into a honey trap and kidnapped. Handcuffed and gagged with silver foil, he is dumped in a Parisian basement and left there in lieu of ransom.

Cop flicks tend to be in the CSI tradition of murder, forensic examination, feet-on-the-ground detective work, red herrings, hair gel and the final denouement - surprise, surprise!. It's an exercise in style as much as content.

Here it's a matter of life and death. The family wait, agonised. The cops keep it in house, assuming control, refusing to take into account that the family is Jewish for fear of inciting a political backlash.

Although the film begins with the mother's narrative, it moves seamlessly from the confused situation at Police HQ to chaotic scenes amongst the kidnappers. Always there is tension.

Alexandre Arcady directs with admirable understatement, despite moments of violence and despair. He avoids every cliche, refusing to glamorise the unglamorous and never resorting to camera tricks for cheap thrills.

For once "based on a true story" means what it says.

Reviewed on: 03 Nov 2014
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24 Days packshot
Drama based on the true story of a Parisian telephone seller who was kidnapped and tortured.

Director: Alexandre Arcady

Writer: Alexandre Arcady, Emilie Fr├Ęche, Antoine Lacomblez

Starring: Zabou Breitman, Pascal Elbé, Jacques Gamblin, Sylvie Testud, Éric Caravaca, Syrus Shahidi, Tony Harrisson, Olivier Sitruk, Olivier Barthelemy, Ron Reznik, Pierre Abbou, Rebecca Azan, Alka Balbir, Barbara Bolotner, Lucie Boujenah

Year: 2014

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France

Festivals:

French 2014

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