As The Assault begins, the camera follows armed response officer Thierry (Vincent Elbaz), one of the main men from the GIGN unit, home after he shoots a man and his wife as they raid his home and witness him holding a shotgun.
Fast-forward to Christmas Eve, 1994 at an airport in Algiers, and four Muslims, led by Yahia (Aymen Saïdi) are seen initially at home, praising Allah. They're clearly not heading to Disney World. They board the plane on the rather iffy premise of being Presidential passport checkers and convince the pilot (Jean-Philippe Puymartin) of what they need to do. After a few minutes, one man gets out of his seat, shows them his credentials - proving he's actually a real police officer - and asks the ringleader if he needs any assistance... but then the civilian spots his gun at which point all hell begins to break loose, and they demand that the plane takes off immediately, although first they'll need someone at the airport to remove the steps from the side of the plane so they can take off.
These four are members of the G.I.A., and the bigwigs at the airport decide to contact their leader, Djamel Zitouni, although Carole (Mélanie Bernier), one of the underlings, points out that the G.I.A. often work in independent groups, so this tactic might not help.
Naturally, the bigwigs demand the release of the elderly, plus women & children, which provides a brief moment of unintentional amusement as two of the terrorists discuss this between themselves and decide releasing the children is a good idea, because they'd only waste a lot of time trying to keep them quiet(!)
What we have in The Assault is a very solid drama that maintains your interest for the full 88-minute running time. I didn't expect this to be the case as I thought only the actual storming of the aircraft would be where the drama lay. That was certainly the case in the incredibly tedious United 93, where only the last 20 minutes was engaging and the rest was interminably dull.
This is because there's a lot of behind-the-scenes drama, so as well as following Thierry and, to a lesser extent, his wife Claire (Marie Guillard), we also see the aforementioned Carole voicing her opinion where the bigwigs would rather she didn't, but you just know she's going to be right in whatever she says.
Overall, while the overuse of very shaky handheld camerawork may put some people off, this is a very accomplished film and is well worth a watch. I don't think it's one you're going to watch again and again, but it's definitely worth a rental at least.
Presented in the original 1.85:1 theatrical ratio and in 1080p high definition, the picture is very sharp and, while it's technically in colour, director Julien Leclercq and cinematographer Thierry Pouget have made a great job of portraying this as an almost monochrome picture, to reflect the grim situation.
The sound is in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, for which I got the 5.1 DTS version, and while it's not a SFX film, the atmosphere builds nicely and the gunfire is blistering. Your neighbours will soon know about it :)
Sadly, the only extra is a trailer (2:18), and rather gives too much away.