In a previous online interview, the programmer of Midnight Madness, Colin Geddes, said his two picks for films that may surprise some people were Sleepless Night (Nuit Blanche) and The Day. Based on this recommendation, I was very anxious to view Frédéric Jardin’s Sleepless Night because the films at Midnight Madness had taken an inevitable dip in quality from the non-stop excitement of The Raid and You’re Next, although it should be said that every single film has been interesting in its own right. Nobody knew anything about this Sleepless Night going in. Tomer Sisley, the lead actor, even told us so during the introduction, with a smirk on his face and in a slightly arrogant manner. The man certainly seemed confident in the film. Did he have reason to be?
Sleepless Night begins with the credits rolling in reverse. It turns out they are gliding over the hood and roof of car speeding through the streets of Paris. Intense music and balaclavas let the audience know that Sleepless Night isn’t going to hold their hand, but will rather force them into the narrative, ready or not. Two crooked cops, Vincent (Tomer Sisley) and Manuel (Laurent Stocker), rip off some small time thugs for a gym bag full of cocaine. The drugs belong to Marciano (Serge Riaboukine), an established criminal that operates out of his nightclub, Tarmac. Before we have a chance to get comfortable, Marciano has identified Vincent as one of the thieves that ripped him off, and has kidnapped Vincent’s teenage son, Thomas (Samy Seghir). The remainder of the film sees Vincent running and fighting his way through the nightclub, trying to evade Marciano’s henchmen as well as undercover internal affairs officers, all while trying to save Thomas.
Sleepless night reminds me of hugely entertaining non-stop action-thrillers like Taken and Edge of Darkness. Sure, the characters played by Liam Neeson and Mel Gibson have a serious problem NOT killing people, that Sisley’s Vincent does not seem to share, but the allure of the films is the same, adrenaline pumping tension and action. What separates Sleepless Night from other films of the same ilk, is that the action and use of force escalates at a very gradual and realistic rate. Words are initially the primary vehicle of the suspense and action, followed by fists and feet, and then finally bullets. It’s refreshing to see a hero not come out ‘guns a blazin’ when the odds are stacked so heavily against him.
The nightclub works perfectly for the setting of the film. I love it when single locations are utilized effectively for nearly entire runtimes. Unnecessary and copious scene changes require work from the audience and often detract from the narrative. Marciano’s nightclub, Tarmac, with its variety of rooms and patrons provides an excellent environment for the struggle between Vincent, Marciano and the internal affairs agents. Effective cinematography and music also help convey the confusion and tension of the predicament that Vincent has found himself in. The camera work even has a bit of a French Connection realism feel at times.
It was great to see Sisley before and after the film. He had his phone out taking videos of the fans in line and then their reactions at the end of the film. He looked like a kid in a candy store. It’s only at film festivals where you can see a sight like that and get an idea of how much satisfaction film makers and actors can derive from a successful screening. The best way to describe Sleepless Night is probably as a ‘cops and robbers’ chase that doesn’t let up until the final credits roll. Congratulations to Jardin and crew for creating a very entertaining film. Check this one out if you get the chance!