MSPIFF 2015 Review: The Connection (La French)

MSPIFF15reviewsTheConnectionBnrIncluding many homages to past crime films, The Connection is an interesting procedural with too few surprises until its final act. At the film’s beginning, Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin, excellent) is a hard-working cop investigating youth drug-related crimes. His effectiveness gets him promoted to magistrate, where he is tasked with investigating France’s organized crime network, led by Gaetan Zampa (Gilles Lellouche, also excellent). Upon his promotion, Michel proves skilled, not least because he’s willing to bend the rules, sometimes even to break the law, all in the name of justice. That Michel is unreasonably obsessive about catching Zampa is of no concern to him, but is still a source of severe worry for his family.

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Dujardin & Lellouche

Which brings us to The Connection’s greatest merit: its characters. Writer/director Cédric Jimenez and co-writer Audrey Diwan layer both Zampa and Michel, crafting each man as complex human beings with merits and flaws aplenty. Here Zampa being on the “wrong” side of the law does not mean we dislike him. And, though we can certainly root for Michel, we do not necessarily approve of everything he does. By making both men complex, Jimenez and Diwan hold our attention. That they develop several secondary characters well also helps.

The Connection’s second greatest merit: some of it’s filmmaking technique. Its production design mirrors 1970s era crime films. And it’s costuming is genius. As the plot’s era shifts from ‘70s to ‘80s, so too does the style of characters’ outfits.

TheConnectionStill2The film’s biggest weakness? The plot. For much of the picture’s run-time it is borderline boiler plate, including many seemingly obligatory scenes.

Yet, this flaw is of relatively minor consequence, partially because the actors and characters are so good we accept predictable developments. For example, we always know Pierre’s wife Jacqueline (Celine Sallette) will eventually express unhappiness with her husband’s choices, but Dujardin and Sallette sell the conflict so convincingly that we don’t mind the moment’s predictability.

TheConnectionDujardinSalletteThen comes the finale, about which I will say very little, except this: it is at least a little surprising. And also terrific, in all regards. Yes, at times The Connection is too procedural, but it is quite good all the same.

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What are your thoughts on The Connection?