Nadia Fares stars in THE NEST, directed by Florent Emilio Siri for Pathé.

The Nest (2002, Florent Emilio Siri)

It’s a French remake of Assault on Precinct 13, but with a healthy mix of disaster movie sentimentality (just as visible in, say, Die Hard, as in The Towering Inferno). That sentimentality isn’t bad, it’s a reward. You watch this incredibly manipulative film and then, in the end, you get some pretty music and some sense of human achievement. The Nest takes it further, however, finding moments of reprieve (not just for the viewer, but for the characters) during the story. I can’t remember how I found it, probably through some review of the actual Precinct 13 remake, but whatever I read about it, in terms of reviews, really fouled up my expectations, because the IMDb “critic” made it sound like it had a twist ending. It doesn’t.

The Nest has a really long set-up–over a half hour–and it’s very well-made, not just compositionally, but also in the character dynamics and the general feel of the film. It’s so well-made, I had that moment where I was sorry it wasn’t two hours, instead of being fifteen minutes shy or whatever. But then I realized it couldn’t sustain itself. Finite narratives are finite for a reason. They can’t hold too much or they’re going to burst. The Nest never even comes close to the bursting point, maybe because of its setting. Instead of being in a small confined space, the film takes place in a large confined space, a warehouse. Because of the storytelling economy, the warehouse never seems too big; people move around and they weren’t necessarily in the same shots as other people. The physical space lets Siri compose his shots wide, instead of claustrophobically, because The Nest is not a small, claustrophobic intensity movie. It’s more like… well, Die Hard. Or even Die Hard 2, just because there’s a big budget and a war criminal.

A lot of the film’s strength comes from the cast and what they have to do. I remembered Samy Naceri from Taxi and he’s a movie star and he’s a good one, holding everything together nicely at the beginning. But his friendship with Benoît Magimel becomes important and the film’s attention to it is particularly good. The main cop, Nadia Farès, is good too and she’s got the central action hero role here so, really, she doesn’t have much to do. The enigmatic ex-firefighter night watchmen, played by Pascal Greggory, is probably the film’s most compelling character, just because it gives the viewer very little and Greggory does such a good job.

When I think of French action movies, I think of Luc Besson (in fact, I was shocked he didn’t produce The Nest or something–at least during the credits, after it started I could tell he didn’t, just from the film’s maturity). Pointing out The Nest is superior to American action movies is useless, but it’s still a singular achievement. It’s a good action movie, well-directed and well-acted (another modern rarity, that combination), and it’s narratively sound….

I’m so glad I didn’t let the IMDb clowns scare me away from it.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Florent Emilio Siri; written by Siri and Jean-Francois Tarnowski; director of photography, Giovanni Fiore Coltellacci; edited by Christophe Danilo and Olivier Gajan; music by Alexandre Desplat; production designer, Bertrand Seitz; produced by Claude Carrere, Guillaume Godard and Patrick Gouyou-Beauchamps; released by Pathé.

Starring Samy Naceri (Nasser), Benoit Magimel (Santino), Nadia Fares (Laborie), Pascal Greggory (Louis), Sami Bouajila (Selim), Anisia Uzeyman (Nadia), Richard Sammel (Winfried), Valerio Mastandrea (Giovanni), Martial Odone (Martial), Martin Amic (Spitz), Alexandre Hamidi (Tony) and Angelo Infanti (Abedin Nexhep).

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