Since superhero films have replaced the traditional action blockbusters as the main breadwinners of Hollywood, there is a growing trend that correlates a film’s commercial success to its budget. while a high-production cost doesn’t necessarily guarantee that a film will be a hit or even entertaining, it allows the filmmakers more freedom to pursue their vision. The 2016 action-thriller ‘The Take’ (Bastille Day) is a glowing exception to such trends. The film was made on a measly budget of $4 million by James Watkins, a director who is not a stranger to working with financial constraints, having earned his spurs in the indie circuit with films like ‘Eden Lake’ and ‘The Woman in Black’. Despite this, ‘The Take’ is a sleekly filmed and thriftily edited cinematic experience that is on par with its more extravagant counterparts, such as movies belonging to Jason Bourne, James Bond, and Mission Impossible franchises. SPOILERS AHEAD.
The Take Plot Synopsis
The movie focuses on three main characters, Idris Elba’s rule-breaking CIA agent Sean Briar, Richard Madden’s talented pickpocket Michael Mason, and Charlotte Le Bon’s passionate anti-fascist protestor Zoe Naville. Briar has been recently transferred from Baghdad to France after his asset’s death in the hands of terrorists. Mason, an American, is currently living in Paris. Although he does harbor some ambitions, he is pretty much a lost soul. Zoe ardently believes in the manifesto of what she thinks to be an anti-fascist outfit and is convinced by her boyfriend, Jean, to plant a bomb in the headquarters of the right-wing organization, the French Nationalist Party. She was told that no one will be in the building in that hour, but realizing that the cleaning staff is still there, she leaves with the bomb. Her bag containing the exploding device (hidden inside a teddy bear) is later stolen by Mason, who takes her phone from the bag and dumps it by a trashcan before it explodes, killing four people.
Surveillance cameras have spotted Mason leaving the scene. A city-wide manhunt ensues in his search. Briar is the one who finds him first, but he quickly realizes that the situation is more complicated than meets the eye. As Paris descends into utter anarchy amidst pro-immigrant and anti-fascist protests, the two protagonists must work together to find Zoe.
The Title Change
The film’s original title, ‘Bastille Day’, refers to France’s national day, which falls on July 14 every year and celebrates the Storming of the Bastille which took place on the same day in 1789. The explosion happens on the eve of Bastille Day, and the notion of the impending celebration has been used as a recurring plot device to accelerate the story. The French police are searching for Mason and any other perpetrator, knowing that they have to apprehend them before the celebration commences, as they can potentially cause other explosions on Bastille Day itself.
‘Bastille Day’ premiered in France on July 13, 2016, concurring with the day on which the story is set. However, after the July 14 Nice Truck Attack, the film was renamed ‘The Take’ before its US and global home releases.
After Briar locates Mason and interrogates him, he finds the latter’s story to be believable, especially after Mason demonstrates what a dangerously gifted sleight-of-hand artist he is. He is ambushed by two people belonging to Zoe and Jean’s mysterious group. Their tactical knowledge and combat readiness are the two clues given to both Briar and the audience about their identity. Only a few scenes later, it is revealed that they are corrupted French police officers serving in the RAPID special forces. Their leader, Rafi Bertrand (Thierry Godard), has become disillusioned because of how his men are being treated by the French government.
They wish to sow discord in the very fabric of French society by provoking one group against the other, with the ultimate objective of stealing money from the French National Bank. All their actions, from the planned bombing of the French Nationalist Party office to planting an exploding device in a mosque as incriminating evidence serve that purpose. They even orchestrate a mass movement through social media and with anarchist masks. Intending to use the movement as a smokescreen for their robbery, they direct the protesters towards the French National Bank.
The Big Reveal
After the ambush, it doesn’t take Briar long to realize that the perpetrators are extremely well-trained and are not part of any terror outfits. He tells this to his superior officers, including CIA senior agent Karen Dacre (Kelly Reilly). Despite their reminder that the Paris team is strictly meant to do surveillance operations, Briar actively gets involved in the case. He is cut from the same cloth as the protagonists of the franchises mentioned above. He is insubordinate, morally ambiguous, and effective.
After he and Mason successfully track Zoe, they go together to Jean’s apartment, where they discover his body and later his police badge. It is heavily implied that he has been killed by Bertrand and his men. Briar calls Dacre and tells her everything. She, in turn, reaches out to Victor Gamieux (José Garcia), the head of Direction générale de la sécurité intérieure or DGSI, who she has known for a while, and arranges a meeting between Briar and French intelligence officers, so Mason and Zoe can be transferred to their custody. Unbeknownst to her, Gamieux is the mastermind behind the entire plot, and he kills her.
Although it is a significantly surprising moment when it is revealed that Gamieux is the real puppeteer pulling the strings of Bertrand and his men, there are clues about it sprinkled through the early part of the film. The affluent life that he leads can hardly be maintained on a public salary. He even sardonically answers that his wife is “expensive” when Dacre enquires about her.
The Action-Packed Climax
Briar, Mason, and Zoe manage to kill the RAPID officers sent to retrieve and kill them and goes to the French National Bank. The venue is brimming with the possibility of violence, with the police in one corner and protestors in the other. Gamieux maneuvers the rest of the members of the RAPID team into the bank, where they dismiss the bank’s security and began stealing digital money with a USB device. Briar successfully breaks into the bank wearing similar gear as RAPID agents but is later pinned down by heavy firing. This is when Zoe and Mason decide to act.
In a scene that makes clear references to the original march towards Bastille, Mason and Zoe encourage the mob to break through the police line and get into the bank. As they do, it provides Briar ample opportunity to get moving. He kills the remaining members of the RAPID squad except for Bertrand, who tries to escape with 500 million dollars in digital currency. But Mason, wearing an anarchist mask, steals it. After Bertrand takes Zoe as a hostage to force Mason to give him the USB device, he is shot dead by on Gamieux’s orders
Unlike the members of the RAPID squad, whose reason for the robbery at least partly stems from their anger towards the system, Gamieux is driven by pure greed. At this point, he has been reduced to just protecting his self-interest. In the closing scenes of the film, Mason, who seemingly has been missing since the incident at the French National Bank, resurfaces with the USB device. Gamieux offers him $100,000, a passport, and a ticket to Brazil in exchange for the device. Mason seems to accept the offer and is led to an underground tunnel where Gamieux is intending to shoot him. What he doesn’t know is that Mason is working with the CIA and French authorities to apprehend him. Briar shows up and Gamieux is arrested. It is then strongly indicated that Mason is going to work for the CIA. This finally brings an end to his vagrant life.
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