June 10, 2015

Movie Review: The Connection (2015)

In 1971, William Friedkin gave us the first R-rated film to win Best Picture, The French Connection. It is a pretty amazing thriller that gives us a fictionalized version of an actual reality where a couple of narcotics cops stumble onto a drug smuggling ring with ties to France. It is a gritty thing of a movie that has to be considered among the best crime films. Now, knowing what was going on in New York City and the ties to France, could there be anything similar going on on the other side of the ocean? Enter The Connection, a French production that takes a look at the French investigation in Marseilles into the massive drug operation.

The movie was directed by Cedric Jimenez and written by Jimenez and Audrey Diwan. Now, this is not my usual go to genre, but the trailer looked pretty good and I had the opportunity to see it projected from a brand new 35mm print, so I couldn't just pass that up. In any case, the movie really is quite spectacular. It is well within the framework of what you would expect from a crime movie, but it is all done with an intensity and a style that just draws you in. Is it a classic? I am not the one to judge, but it is pretty darn good!

The movie follows a new magistrate in the drug division, Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin best known for his Oscar winning role in The Artist), and how he leads a many year investigation into a massive heroin smuggling operation led by Gaetan “Tany” Zampa (Gilles Lelouche). There are tails, wire taps, arrests, showdowns, sneaky getaways, and all of the usual crime film elements that you are used to seeing.

What makes this worth your time? Well, for one, the performances are quite solid, Dujardin delivers the goods as the obsessive magistrate who becomes consumed with stopping Zampa, to the point of nearly losing his family. Now, that family bit culminates in a scene of powerful emotional poignancy. It is fascinating to watch the interplay between the good guys and the bad guys, how their lives run parallel in many ways, save for which side of the law they are on.

I am not sure there is anything you haven't seen before. I think what it is that captured me aside from the performances, was the look and feel of it all. There was an air that everything we are seeing is vintage 70's. Well, vintage film making, I never feel like I am not watching a movie, despite getting wrapped up in the story, but the way it is shot and the way everything flows just screams 1970's, almost as if it was being shot simultaneously with The French Connection to tell both sides of the story as it was happening.

The best I can say about The Connection is that it is a wonderfully executed crime film with performances that will hold your attention and draw you in to the dangerous world in which they are operating. It builds to a big climax that had an emotional impact that I did not see coming.

Highly Recommended.

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