A French police magistrate spends years trying to take down one of the country’s most powerful drug rings.
‘The Connection’ is a stylish French crime thriller about the ‘French Connection’, a drug smuggling ring which enabled the transportation of heroin between Marseille and New York City. If the outline sounds familiar, it’s likely because you’ll have seen (or at least heard of) ‘The French Connection’, William Friedkin’s 1971 film which was a fictionalised take on the US side of operations. Cedric Jimenez’s film looks at the smuggling ring from France’s side, and with the benefit of hindsight tells the story through the lens of the real people involved and not fictionalised characters. In both style and content, Jimenez’s film is a throwback to the 1970’s, and it’s clear that ‘The Connection’ has been influenced by US crime cinema, particularly the aforementioned ‘The French Connection’ and the works of Michael Mann (‘Heat’ in particular’).
In ‘The Connection’, Jimenez chooses to frame the events through the lens of two men on different sides of the law (sound familiar?), pitting Jean Dujardin’s magistrate Pierre Michel against the tough ringleader of the drug gang, Gaetan ‘Tany’ Zampa (Gilles Lellouche). Throughout the film, there are sequences where we see both Michel and Zampa dealing with situations outwith their direct battle of wits (most notably Zampa’s attempts to deal with a rogue member of his gang known as ‘Crazy Horse’), but everything is drawn back to their conflict. Like De Niro and Pacino in ‘Heat’, Jimenez goes to great lengths to compare and contrast his two leads, whilst keeping them apart as much as possible. Both Dujardin and Lellouche deliver moody, powerful performances that contrast superbly with each other and the ongoing cat and mouse chase between them is thrilling to watch, with both men shown to be capable, determined and intelligent.
Beyond the central duo, there isn’t much room for the supporting characters to see much development, and this does lead to some of the weaker scenes in the film when we move away from the central conflict and into Michel’s family problems for example. One of the things Jimenez does extremely well is to capture the viewer’s attention from the outset, with each development in the narrative maintaining focus and the care and attention to depicting policework engrossing throughout. Jimenez uses various techniques such as a good use of montage to show the police and the criminals in action, as well as to depict the passage of time, and this is enhanced by a great soundtrack. The script is well written, with a deliberate level of pacing that keeps the film moving forward with momentum without losing any of the detail, and there’s a strong grounding in dark humour throughout.
Engrossing from the outset, ‘The Connection’ is a stylish true crime thriller with a terrific script that pits two outstanding performers against each other. Recommended.
Directed By: Cédric Jimenez
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Gilles Lellouche, Celine Sallette, Melanie Doutey, Guillaume Gouix, Benoit Magimel, Bruno Todeschini and Feodor Atkine