To be honest, I would be hard pressed to pick out a known name from 24 Days. Even writer/director Alexandre Arcady seems like one of those names that you think you’ve heard until you IMDB his credit list. No, name recognition might not be big in this film, but the terrific cast and skillful direction carries this tense crime thriller on their shoulders.
Covered extensively by the press, the story is based on true events: the kidnapping, attempted ransom, torture, and murder of Jewish cellphone salesman Ilan Halimi in 2006. Ilan was lured to the Parisian suburbs, beaten, and kept in the basement of an apartment complex. Eventually, when things went sour for Youssouf Fofana and his barbarians, Ilan was released but not before being lit on fire and abandoned. The story sparked debates about the motives of the captors, dredging up “old demons” from France’s past. Were they motivated by money or anti-Semitism?
In truth, 24 Days spends little time on Ilan himself, though an entire film could be made concerning the only Barbarian’s side of the story. Arcady made the choice of turning his camera on the family and the ensuing investigation.
Good choice. The family’s burden is intensely interesting, charged by the performances of Zabou Breitman and Pascal Elbe as the mother and father of Ilan, respectively. The two actors don’t particularly carry the movie on their shoulders, but every scene they are in becomes swirled around their performance. That said, the movie has a ton of speaking parts and every actor shows up to play and play right. Even Alka Balbir, playing Ilan’s sister Yael, steals a scene from mom and dad at one point. Tony Harrisson makes himself hard to ignore as the psychotic and unhinged Fofana, who goes by Django in the film. He screams, he swears, he hits things, he gives it all.