Quick Reads

Black Tide

A thriller, more interested in characters than the narrative itself.

Credit : France 2 Cinéma

In the early scenes of the film, we see a mother explaining the disappearance of her son. Dany, who went missing, was a high school student. A police officer from the other side of the table tries to find a loophole in that story. Because why would anything happen without a reason? That’s what he believed in. He keeps asking questions to the mother in order to find something that would strike as a suspicious factor. In the middle of their conversation, he receives a call. It was about someone getting caught and asking for his permission for the further process.

Later in the film, we realize that it was for his son, who was caught in something related to drug-trafficking. We, as an audience, start to connect dots from the very beginning. “He’s 16. This might be because of a girl”, says the cop to the mother. He was just making an assumption based on his own child, on how careless they can be at times.

We keep getting such glimpses all over the film, about the character and how that changes his lookout over everything. Thanks to Vincent Cassel who portrays this idiosyncratic cop, Visconti, with an ease that you see the narrative from his angle, just like the film demands. His performance might seem over-the-top at points, but that has to do with the narrative. His character gets affected by the personal conflicts that he brings into the cases assigned to him. It’s sad that this arc of his life could have been explored in a better way.

The upstairs neighbor Yann Bellaile, played by Romain Duris, gets introduced to him while working on the case. A wannabe author, who got stuck with his teaching job and had almost no considerable contribution to literature, has always been interested in Dany. He connected his own pathos and childhood traumas with Dany and started feeling like a messiah for this poor kid.

Being an existential writer influenced by the likes of Kafka and Camus, he seemed to have clouded judgments about many things.  This, to the cop, clearly felt like a bad influence. Suspicions started rising with the time and he became focused even more in this neighbor that he got blindsided about almost everything else. Even a neatly illustrated proof at times didn’t matter to him. He got fixated on this single person. That’s where the game began.

Duris played this creepy neighbour with enough charm to interest but by being sly enough to suspect in the case. He got anxious at every meet with the cop and showed the obvious signs of a secretive personality. The cop (Cassel) unfolds the chapters towards finding a strong thread against him for the missing child. And the teacher kept opening his own bunker with the insecurities of his own. As if these two minds were playing chess and they were presenting their own moves.


Cassel was so effective in this role that this might be one of the best performances of his career. From the minute details like scratching his ear to almost running to beat the shit out of his own son, he embodied the role of this alcoholic, repulsive cop; who probably hadn’t showered for days. He was emotionally unstable, even immature at times that he couldn’t stop himself from slapping his colleague over just a small disagreement. Such cop who couldn't connect with his own son was able to empathize with the mother going through similar communication problems. That reflected in his behaviour towards her, especially her daughter with Down syndrome, who the mother was fond of.

The chasing game between the two lead characters lasts for quite some time and is peppered with enough details to keep one intrigued. The dark and gritty atmosphere created with the effective music score worked, for the most part, to keep the mystery sustained. The character arcs between Visconti and the teacher and the one with the mother were handled carefully, until the last act where it all started to derail.

The supposed payoff seems so rushed. It had so many revelations all of a sudden that it felt badly chopped to cut the runtime. Even the result seems so out-of-the-place with the whole narrative that it hardly seems to be concerned with carefully solving the mystery. We see the narrative foundering towards the reveal where it surprises with a half-baked or rather a non-developed arc. In the end, all it leaves us with is an overwhelming yet unsatisfactory experience at the same time. An impressive character study with an unfulfilling ending, it remains to be.