It took the French police simply 5 days to observe down the boys answerable for the Nov. 13, 2015, assaults on Paris. Within the meantime, the nation was placed on excessive alert: President François Hollande declared struggle on Daesh (ISIS), and police got carte blanche to carry the terrorists to justice. For these 5 days in November — the identical interval dramatized in French director Cedric Jimenez’s ticking-clock thriller “November” — the terrorists appeared to have achieved their objective.
On Nov. 13, the terrorists attacked the Stade de France, the place Hollande was attending a match; they opened hearth on harmless Parisians consuming at avenue cafés within the tenth arrondissement; they usually turned a live performance on the Bataclan theater into a demise entice, killing 90 in that venue alone. France was traumatized. I do know as a result of I used to be there, ordered to keep indoors, afraid that this may be only the start. Like practically everybody I spoke to, I used to be determined to get out, if solely to present the terrorists that they hadn’t received, that we might not reside in concern. And but, the incident had touched a nerve. We have been all deeply, irreparably scared.
The director of “The French Connection” reverse-shot crime saga “The French,” Jimenez appears to keep in mind issues in a different way. With “November,” he has made a patriotic tribute to the French police, casting a few of the native trade’s high stars — Jean Dujardin, Anaïs Demoustier, Sandrine Kiberlain, Jérémie Renier — as key gamers within the operation mobilized to observe and seize the terrorists. Issues didn’t go completely. There was no scarcity of false leads, useless ends and lives misplaced, a few of which Jimenez and screenwriter Olivier Demangel acknowledge. Others they create. However ultimately, the cops discover their guys, there’s a big shootout, the terrorists are neutralized, and Dujardin’s character, Fred, stands up and provides a hole speech: “For us, it’s only the start.”
Maybe “November” will make some folks really feel higher about what occurred. Personally, I don’t suppose I’ll ever recover from that point, and I don’t purchase the way in which Jimenez depicts the aftermath. He fails to seize how Paris felt instantly following that tragedy. And he appears to suppose that blowing up the unhealthy guys — and dropping bombs on ISIS overseas — balances out the 130 souls misplaced in that stunning triple strike. I don’t need to understand how they caught the culprits; I would like to understand how they’ll cease it from taking place once more.
Recognizing how delicate the French public could be to see the atrocities themselves re-created, Jimenez retains them off-screen. This gesture of fine style will certainly be appreciated by locals, but it surely renders “November” unusually difficult to distribute overseas, the place audiences aren’t as conversant in what occurred. Within the movie, when issues erupt, the movie’s POV is trapped again at police HQ, the place Marco (Renier, practically unrecognizable) is manning the switchboards alone. First one cellphone rings, then all of them go off. It’s a textbook instance of cinematic understatement, like that includes a clip of George W. Bush studying “The Pet Goat” on Sept. 11 quite than exhibiting planes crashing into the World Commerce Middle. The French get it; foreigners received’t.
Of the 9 terrorists immediately answerable for the assaults, seven die on-site. Two disappear into the night time. Figuring out and arresting them, in addition to anybody who could have aided and abetted their mission, instantly turns into precedence No. 1 of each cop within the metropolis. However how do you discover two fugitive jihadists in a metropolis of 11 million folks? And what about threats that follow-up assaults could possibly be imminent? Time is of the essence.
If Nov. 13 triggered Hollande’s struggle on terror, the place precisely does one draw the entrance strains? “November” stays largely behind the scenes, caught with officers at their desks, gazing laptop screens and listening to the a whole bunch of leads left on police hotlines. Héloïse (Kiberlain) runs the present, whereas Fred provides the go-ahead on the place to ship closely armed DGSI groups in riot gear — like a Brussels raid that turns up mid-level drug sellers quite than accomplices. He takes the warmth when certainly one of his underlings, Inès (Demoustier), oversteps her duties. And he personally interrogates the arms supplier who offered the attackers their Kalashnikov machine weapons, depicted right here as a white nationalist unconcerned with how the weapons could be used. In actual fact, this individual’s id has by no means been made public.
Finally, the case was cracked by an unlikely lead: A lady named Samia (Lyna Khoudri) known as in to say she knew the place the killers have been hiding, describing a element — a pair of vibrant orange sneakers — that had not been made public. Jimenez contains an upsetting scene through which Marco and Inès grill this lady as if she had deliberate the assaults herself, and when it’s all accomplished, the helmer makes a level of scolding the police for the way in which she was handled. (The film largely overlooks Hasna Aït Boulahcen, the girl killed within the climactic scene, and whom the media mistakenly portrayed as Europe’s first suicide bomber. Director Dina Amer’s “You Resemble Me” offers together with her complicated — and controversial — story.)
“November” appears to say: The police made errors, however you’ll be able to’t cease terrorism with out inconveniencing a few civilians. Besides on this case, the police didn’t cease terrorism; they merely avenged it. The Nov. 13 assaults nonetheless occurred, and France is perpetually modified. Each minute I’ve since spent in Paris is marked by the attention that it might occur once more. In spite of everything, it had occurred already, 10 months earlier, when terrorists raided the Charlie Hebdo workplaces.
Gritty and suspenseful at instances, banal and bureaucratic at others, “November” isn’t France’s reply to “Zero Darkish Thirty” a lot as a one-dimensional salute to French effectivity, a procedural designed to restore religion within the system. The nation hasn’t seen an assault of that magnitude since, although there have undoubtedly been makes an attempt. The difficulty with terrorism is that it really works, leaving tens of millions terrified, and no splashy French studio film could make us really feel in any other case.