The Last Diamond

 

starstarstar

 

 

A French thriller that travels between Paris and Antwerp but discovers little new ground.


The world-wide success of The Artist (2011) rightly earned acclaim for its leading lady Bérénice Bejo who then proved her versatility by taking a major role in the drama The Past directed by Asghar Farhadi. But since then a potentially star actress (the camera loves her) has singularly failed to build on that. The reason may lie in the roles that have come her way, as exemplified by her turn in Eric Barbier’s thriller The Last Diamond, made in 2014, but only reaching us now. She is the best thing in the film, but it is not going to help her career.

The phrase that most succinctly sums up what is on offer here is that it is a heist movie. That very phrase brings home the fact that this is a film which, albeit now in colour and ’Scope, could have been made sixty odd years ago. Personally I see it as no cause for regret that The Last Diamond refuses to update its tale by adding strong language and emphasising violence (only the over-extended climax complete with shoot-out represents more recent taste). But there is an unhelpful sense of déjà vu which also reminds us of superior films in this genre.

Here the plan is to steal a hugely valuable diamond due to be auctioned in Antwerp with Julia Neuville (Bejo) in charge. Crucial to the plan is Simon (Yvan Attal), an experienced safecracker, who is persuaded by his friend Albert (Jean-François Stévenin) to apply his skills to help a Belgian crook named Scylla (Antoine Basler) whose gang will be involved in the theft. What follows incorporates the usual plot twists and double crosses that are to be expected in this kind of film. There’s also a romance involving Simon and Julia after he has inveigled his way into her employ by passing himself off as a security man who had in that capacity aided her late mother.

 

Last Diamond

Stone cold: Bérénice Bejo and Yvan Attal

 

The fact that this tale could have been told in much the same way in 1955 shows up its superficiality since the classic heist drama Rififi was made in that year. Dassin’s great film was more serious than The Last Diamond which might in fact have gained by extending its use of humour. This aspect is best illustrated by Simon’s gambit at the outset when another robbery plan involves him appearing naked in a hotel corridor pretending to have been locked out of his room so as to be let in by the staff and by a later diversionary tactic which sees Albert pretending to be a children’s writer requiring an interview with Julia. But for the most part this is no more than routine entertainment of an old-fashioned kind, watchable enough if you are in the mood for it but totally unmemorable.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Yvan Attal, Bérénice Bejo, Jean-François Stévenin, Antoine Basler, Charlie Dupont, Gene Bervoets, Jacques Spiesser, Michel Israel, Daniel Hanssens, Annie Cordy.

 

Dir Eric Barbier, Pro Farid Lahouassa and Aissa Djabri, Screenplay Barbier, Tran-Minh Nam, Denys Corel and others, Ph Denis Rouden, Art Dir Pierre Renson, Ed Jennifer Augé, Music Renaud Barbier, Costumes Uli Simon.

 

A Vertigo Productions, Scope Pictures, Bidibul productions, CN3 Productions co-production etc.-Swipe Films.
108 mins. France/Belgium/Luxembourg. 2014. Rel: 22 January 2016. Cert. 15.