Warning: For those not already familiar with the Halimi Affair, there will be spoilers in this review.
CAPSULE: This is a docudrama about the kidnapping of Parisian Jew Ilan Halimi, who in January, 2006 was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered largely because he was Jewish. The film follows the Halimi family, the police, and the criminals, all the time sticking fairly accurately to what is known about the case. The Halimi family and the police race to find and save the hostage. The film looks at many connected issues including immigration policies, anti-Semitism, class, and police competency and prejudice. Not all the issues are fully discussed, nor would we expect them to be in a single film, but the viewer is aware of them. 24 DAYS is directed and co-written by Alexandre Arcady, perhaps in the United States best known for the horror thriller HIGH TENSION. Also writing the script were Emilie Freche and Antoine Lacomblez. Rating: low +3 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
The French Government has tried over the previous century to support a policy of ethnic tolerance and inclusiveness. Unfortunately, that system has the drawback that there are intercultural hatreds that they are only exacerbating by inviting in immigrants trained in hatred. France has had a large influx of Anti-Jewish Muslims into their population and at the same time a great increase in domestic anti-Semitism. Ilan Halimi was a young Jew who worked in a Paris cell phone store. He was 23 years old when he was targeted, kidnapped, and taken to Bagneux, a commune in the suburbs of Paris. There his treatment was shockingly barbaric. 24 DAYS is a docudrama of the incident as seen from many sides.
On January 20, 2006, Ilan Halimi had Sabbath dinner with his family and then went out for a late-night date with an attractive woman he had met while he worked in a cell phone store. She was the bait. He was set upon by a gang of thugs and taken to an apartment in the Bagneux section of Paris. There he was trussed in duct tape and viciously tortured. For three weeks he was tortured and starved, held in barbaric conditions. Meanwhile the kidnappers demanded a ransom that Ilan's parents could not pay. A staccato of phone calls from the kidnappers to the Halimi family made unrealistic and inconsistent demands.
The extent of Ilan's condition is described as "horrific." Still, it must have been considerably but understandably toned down for the camera. The real Ilan Halimi was burned over 80 per cent of his body. And after the first week his captors never even fed him. His condition probably could not be accurately depicted for the camera.
Central to the story is Ilan's mother Ruth Halimi (played by Zabou Breitman) who wrote the book on which the film script was based. We see the story through her eyes. She is speaking directly to the viewer in the first and last scenes of the film. Other people are filmed with a more literal camera. But the camera frequently focuses in on her and the action slows to dwell on her emotion. That way the story's treatment becomes very personal to her. Otherwise the story moves fast because there is a lot of detail of the story to cover. It documents tensions in the family, between the family and the police, and within the police. Supporting her character is Pascal Elbé who plays Ilan's estranged father. Jacques Gamblin plays Police Commander Delcour who is handling the case. Tony Harrisson plays the formidable Youssouf Fofana who leads the kidnappers and who cannot settle on a single ransom amount.
We see the police investigation including some smart moves and some obvious errors. There is, for example, controversy over whether the crime can be classified as being anti-Semitic or not. Arcady manages to put into this 108-minute film a lot of action but the issues he manages to make very personal. I rate 24 DAYS a low +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3600588/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/24_days/?search=24%20days
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2015 Mark R. Leeper