Drawing a persistent curiosity during its puzzling first half, but losing a great part of the grip in its last, Nocturama, an imperfect thriller directed by Bertrand Bonello (House of Tolerance; Saint Laurent), displays a contrived conjecture as a response to the uncertainty about the multiple terrorist attacks that France was recently subjected to.
In addition to directing, Bonello also wrote the script, co-produced, and composed the music for the film whose talented young cast made it look slightly better than really was.
With a structure that winds back and forth in time, the story is centered on a group of young individuals who inexplicably decide to embark on a malicious bombing plan rounded up with a couple of killings, in the center of Paris.
“… leaving the motivations of the characters to our imagination… has acceptable moments of suspense and exhales estrangement all around.”
The plot was carried out with a tenacious conviction but didn’t go exactly as intended. Greg (Vincent Rottiers) and Fred (Robin Goldbronn), both headers of the operation, had the same fate during the mission: death. The former even makes a ghostly appearance to explain what had happened to him, a sloppy incursion into the supernatural at the minimum.
The rest of the criminals, 10 in total, meet overnight at a downtown mall, where Omar (Rabah Nait Oufella), an accomplice who works there, had prepared everything for a bizarre celebration.
Infusing a good amount of alienation in a shockingly quiet way, Bonello imagined a group of local terrorists with a variety of backgrounds. The middle-class is represented by David (Finnegan Oldfield) and Sarah (Laure Valentinelli), the lower classes by the aimless Mika (Jamil McCraven) and the ostentatious Yacine (Hamza Meziani), the upper class by the bright and well-connected Andre (Martin Petit-Guyot), and finally, the Muslim community by Samir (Ilias Le Doré), who dreams with the deceptive promises of an upcoming paradise.
“No appeals to surrender, no questions, no requests, no mercy.”
Bonello not only sets up a few musical scenes to entertain the audiences – Omar listening to loud music, Yacine theatrically singing Paul Anka’s version of “My Way”, and Sabrina (Manal Issa) dancing “Call Me” by Blondie – but also squeezes two intruders inside the mall to join the freaky fellowship.
The celebration turns into a nightmare when a police squad enters the building to erase the invaders and clean up the building. No appeals to surrender, no questions, no requests, no mercy.
Although leaving the motivations of the characters to our imagination and fabricating a couple of strained situations that aim to be cool, Nocturama has acceptable moments of suspense and exhales estrangement all around.
Nocturama (2017) Written and Directed by Bertrand Bonello. Starring: Finnegan Oldfield, Vincent Rottiers, Hamza Meziani, Martin Petit-Guyot, Ilias Le Doré, Rabah Nait Oufella.
6 out of 10