Published Sep 05, 2014Cédric Jimenez's The Connection is an ode to the frenetic thrillers and police procedurals of the 1970s, tackling the same crime syndicate made famous by William Friedkin in The French Connection. While Jimenez packs his film with familiar Scorsesean flourishes like an on-the-move camera and a killer retro-pop soundtrack, The Connection is more than an empty nostalgic ode, thanks to a strong script and a great lead turn by Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin.
Dujardin became a household name in 2011 thanks to his performance in another genre exercise, the Best Picture-winning silent film The Artist. Here, Dujardin has swapped the broad 1930s matinee-idol mugging of that period for a performance that employs another kind of genre archetype: the 1970s Spielbergian everyman. Dujardin brings a subtle naturalism and quiet eccentricity reminiscent of Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind to his role as Pierre Michel, a family man and youth crimes magistrate who is brought up to the big leagues to take on France's heroin trade. Jimenez is careful to take time to explore Michel's family life and the strong relationships he forms with his team as they spend years trying to take down the French Connection and its untouchable crime boss, Gaetan Zampa. Dujardin's reined-in turn here is refreshing after a number of years spent rehashing his Artist tricks in stale films like February's The Monuments Men.
Jimenez brings a steady hand to the direction, capturing the energy with a hyperkinetic style that maintains a clear sense of space and location. The film runs a full two-and-a-quarter hours but is remarkably well paced, filled with momentum that only unravels slightly in the final act.
While Jimenez employs all the tricks in the book, including montages that would make a Boogie Nights-era Paul Thomas Anderson swoon, Jimenez has a clear understanding of theme and narrative, making use of long takes to communicate mood and the headspace of his characters.
While The Connection doesn't reinvent the crime thriller wheel, Jimenez creates an excellently crafted film with a highly functional and compelling narrative. And, boy, does it all look stunning with its near-religious worshipping of the 35mm film medium. Marseille has never looked better, and Jimenez has an auteur's control in capturing the sleaze of the drug trade in the city. (eOne)