Online Screen Editor, Jack Smith takes a look at the stylish new French thriller The Connection assessing its many qualities, but also considers what is missing:
[dropcap size=small]C[/dropcap]édric Jimenez’s French crime thriller The Connection (La French) opened last week, and the more I think about it, the more I like it. It stars Jean Dujardin, of The Artist fame, as courageous and obsessive magistrate Pierre Michel trying to take down Gaëtan Zampa (Gilles Lellouche) as head of the mob controlling the eponymous “French Connection” (this being the infamous processing of raw Turkish heroin in Marseilles before smuggling it to America).
Hence, it’s almost impossible to watch this film without comparing it to William Friedkin’s classic of almost the same name of 1971. However, Jimenez’s film takes a more laidback, coolheaded stylistic approach to the story, one that is evidently evocative of Europe in tone as well as its diegetic and production setting. Don’t expect to see Jean Dujardin chasing a train in a car, bulldozing through traffic à la Gene Hackman. However, there is some action; one sequence of note is a drug raid towards the end of the film, in which a mixture of great choreography, exhilarating camerawork and fantastic sound design come together to form a highlight of the film, a point at which the incessantly high tension comes to a head.
Moreover, The Connection makes fantastic use of its 1970s setting, which calls for some awesome period music on top of Guillaume Roussel’s brilliant score. Marseille’s colours are bold and striking, and the production went to great lengths to create extensive, gorgeous scenes with plenty of old cars, costumes and classic décor. The cinematography and lighting was particularly beautiful and made the most of its widescreen ratio, rendering it one of the best-looking movies you’ll see all year.
I went into the film quite excited, enticed by The Connection’s trailer which is reminiscent of the unforgettable opening sequence from Paolo Sorrentino’s Il Divo. Yet, this highlighted my main concern with Jimenez’s film. For what is a visually stunning and extremely enjoyable movie, it is lacking somewhat in directorial audacity. It certainly has lulls and there were points at which I felt it was just a bit bland. This doesn’t exactly detract from the film, it is just what distinguishes it from the true classics of the genre. This is both praise and criticism, because it demonstrates really how good The Connection is, but it could have been something very special.
The encounter between Dujardin’s Michel and Lellouche’s ultracool crime boss Zampa is incredible and recalls that restaurant scene from Michael Mann’s Heat. There are parallels here between those detective and criminal characters yet it’s best not to think about that since Dujardin and Lellouche are good, but they aren’t Pacino and De Niro. The Connection is a great film, but it unfortunately lacks a special sequence or some cinematographic virtuosity that would take it to the next level. This said, it’s the best film showing in Exeter at the moment. Don’t miss it.
Jack Smith, Online Screen Editor
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