11.6: Film Review

11.6 Fracois Cluzet 2013 H
Film noir approach to French heist riddle pays dividends.

"Intouchables" star Francois Cluzet delivers the goods in this noir-style replay of a real-life heist.

If you've ever wanted to know what $17,000,000 in cash looks like, this is the movie to see. When one day in November 2009 French security van driver Toni Musulin made off with the 48 bags and boxes of bank-notes in his charge, that was the amount --11.6 million euros, to be precise -- he was carrying. The event, the source of great amusement to many of his compatriots (bankers were not the flavor of the month just then) and of bemusement to the rest, has been brought efficiently to the screen in what is less thriller than film noir -- a glimpse into the troubled mind of a man prepared to throw away everything for the sake of a gesture. Sleek visuals and a steely performance by the highly bankable Francois Cluzet (Tell No One, The Intouchables) should ensure handsome box-office returns.

Director Philippe Godeau -- a veteran producer taking his second turn behind the camera after One for the Road (2009) -- shuns drama and spectacle for a down-and-dirty, not to say downbeat, approach that makes no pretense of knowing the answers to the riddle of Musulin's escapade but which fascinates from beginning to end. He presents Musulin (Cluzet) as a loner eaten up by a sense of humiliation and frustration, patiently preparing the action that will bring him his 15 minutes of fame although his main motivation appears to have been a thirst for revenge against his cheating employers.

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Musulin is neither romanticized nor even rendered particularly sympathetic. He acts shabbily towards his long-term girlfriend, restaurant-owner Marion (Corinne Masiero) and his security guard buddy Arnaud (Bouli Lanners), ditching the former and throwing the latter's white mouse -- his dearest companion -- out of the van window.

Other clues to his personality are his fascination with sports cars -- he buys a shiny red Ferrari for weekend excursions, though he rides a bike in to work -- and the awkward, hopeless shine he takes to a much younger woman, Natalia (Juana Acosta), met at a dance party.

Freely adapting a book-length reportage by Alice Geraud-Arfi, Godeau constructs a Rubik's Cube portrayal of one man's quixotic attempt to break free of the shackles of deadening routine and (it's hinted) class prejudice. The lack of suspense (the film opens with Musulin giving himself up to the police, a week after carrying out his "heist of the century") is more than compensated for by the sense of mystery surrounding Musulin's actions and motives. Why did he never attempt to make good his escape by, for example, going underground or fleeing abroad? And whatever happened to the 2.5 million euros which the police were unable to recover but which Musulin said he had left in a rented garage with the rest of his booty? With Musulin due for release from prison in a year or so, the story is perhaps not yet complete.

Production companies: Pan-Européenne, Wild Bunch
Cast: Francois Cluzet, Corinne Masiero, Bouli Lanners, Juana Acosta, Stephan Wojtowicz
Director: Philippe Godeau
Writers: Agnes Sacy, Philippe Godeau, freely adapted from "Toni 11,6, Histoire du convoyeur{, by Alice Geraud-Arfi
Photography: Michel Amathieu
Producers: Philippe Godeau, Baudoin Capet
Production Design: Therese Ripaud
Editor: Thierry Derocles
Sales: Wild Bunch
No MPAA rating
Running time: 102 minutes