On Christmas Eve, 1994, four gentlemen boarded Air France Flight 8969 in Algeria, bound for Paris’s Orly Airport. The quartet pulled out guns and declared they were members of the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), and the plane was now under their control. The ringleader (Saïdi) demanded the release of political prisoners, and later requested an abnormally large amount of fuel. Meanwhile, back in France, a government official (Bernier) tried to alert her superiors to the terrorists’ plan—to crash the plane into the Eiffel Tower—while an elite law-enforcement commando (Elbaz) prepped with his team to intercept the flight. On December 26, he was one of the first to engage in a bloody firefight watched live by millions of French TV viewers.
That director Julien Leclercq includes actual broadcast footage of the rescue mission alongside his dramatization suggests he’s after a certain you-are-there verisimilitude; the fact that this feels like the least exploitative aspect of the project is cause for alarm. Despite toggling among the three characters’ story lines, the film is barely concerned with the who, what or where of the incidents, much less a deeper why. It simply wants to milk this real-life example of courage (and chaos) under fire for multiplex thrills, reducing everything to a cheap adrenaline rush set to a pulsing soundtrack. Only the overstylized, near-colorless cinematography offers any shades of gray (actually, nothing but shades of gray); everything else is rendered in the most black-and-white way possible.
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