In Torment (Dans la Tourmente): Film Review

A social drama-thriller that combines pace and relevance.

Director Christophe Ruggia's drama-thriller centers on a couple who struggle to make ends meet.

Dans la Tourmente starts out as a social drama, becomes the story of a heist gone wrong and ends up as a political thriller. Despite the genre shifts it holds up well as an entertainment with something to say about the harshness of contemporary society. Strongly drawn characters and a pacy plot should attract popular audiences while its grounding in industrial issues will enhance its appeal to filmgoers looking for relevance to how we live today. Decent returns are likely to follow at home and abroad.

Welder Franck (Clovis Cornillac) and his wife Helene (Mathilde Seigner) are having trouble making ends meet and there is talk of industrial unrest down at the factory. When Franck overhears a confidential conversation between two bosses planning to dismantle the plant overnight and move it offshore, with an under-the-counter payoff of two million euros in the mix, he calls in his best mate Max (Yvan Attal), a former union militant now unemployed and heavily in debt, with a view to carving a slice of the pie for themselves.

Their raid is successful but blood is spilled and Franck finds himself out of his depth. Helene, who believes his story that he found the money by chance buried in a plot of wasteland, wants to inform the police, and soon it is Max who is taking the lead.

Director Christophe Ruggia achieves a film noir mood as Max plunges ever deeper into trouble, driven by a sense of injustice and a desperate need to patch things up with his ex-wife Laure (Celine Sallette) so that he can see his son Kevin (Jean-Baptiste Fonck). Set in the hybrid landscape around Marseille - the green and gold of the pinewood forests contrasting with the gunmetal blues and grays of the productive infrastructive - the movie convincingly portrays the world of work and the precarity of those who inhabit its nether regions.

Ruggia is well served by his principals Cornillac, Seigner and the ever-watchable Attal, all of them playing against type. Each catches his or her character's vulnerabilities without pathos or melodrama, and our sympathies remain engaged throughout. The arms-trafficking subplot is arguably a complication too far, and the final scenes are too obviously contrived, but there is no preaching or militancy and the spectator is swept along agreeably by the fast-moving action and a score provided by Michael Stevens (Gran Torino, Letters from Iwo Jima).

Opens: Jan. 11
Production company: Le Bureau
Cast: Clovis Cornillac, Mathilde Seigner, Yvan Attal, Celine Sallette, Jean-Baptiste Fonck, Abel Jafri, Marc Brunet
Director: Christophe Ruggia
Writer: Christophe Ruggia
Producer: Bertrand Faivre
Photography: Eric Guichard
Editor: Tina Baz
Music: Michael Stevens
Sales: Wild Bunch
No MPAA rating
Running time: 107 minutes

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