Grimmfest 2021 – Film Review – Blast (2021)

Sonia is an accomplished explosive expert who travels worldwide eradicating the hidden menace of landmines. During a rare bout of family time, she finds herself stuck inside a booby-trapped car with her son and boyfriend’s daughter.

A powerful anti-tank device has been rigged to a 30-minute timer and Sonia must work together with her closest colleagues to prevent them all plastering the walls of a Parisian parking lot. In a scenario where icy clarity and unshakable calmness are paramount, she must tame her rising stress levels and keep her professional head, despite the raw distractions of emotional attachment.

This invigorating one-location thriller from France has a concept higher than the Rolling Stones during their 1967 road trip to Marrakesh. Wasting no time in setting up the preposterous premise Blast prefers to drip-feed its limited exposition in symbiosis with the escalating suspense and minimalistic police procedurals.

It is a commitment to the economy of uncluttered filmmaking that is typical of the ethos of the film as a whole. Sleek and stylish with a penchant for pithy dialogue, Vanya Peirani-Vignes’ compact debut zooms out of the blocks without the baggage of overthinking to weigh it down.

That being said, it boasts an intelligent and cohesive screenplay that manages to cram erudite social commentary and heartbreaking ethical conundrums into the rare gaps between the myriad of tense set-pieces. Some of the tough choices the characters have to face are genuinely chilling and it bolsters the jeopardy factor beyond the familiar cloured wire snipping of lesser device diffusion movies.

As well as the clear and present danger facing those at ground zero they must also unmask the orchestrators of their plight and this adds a further level of dramatic involvement. Many of the accomplished cast’s finest moments come during the salty jurisdiction duels between the authorities and the bomb squad mercenaries.

Also on point are the relationship dynamics that explore perceived favoritism and abandonment at the hands of obsession. Deeper still the film examines the moral implications of altruistic bravery in league with profiteering and the consequences for those caught in its crossfire.

I have no idea how accurate the techniques of disarmament depicted in Blast are. However, they are captivating in their technological intricacy and make for terrifically pleasing escape room cinema. Look out for the cool laser-guided device that fires a bomb freezing bullet into the bodywork of the car.

One of the factors governing the stability of the deadly payload is weight distribution dependant and this attribute is milked brilliantly. It not only gives the fight or flight instinct a tangible embodiment but throws light on the criteria human beings use to prioritise life and delimitate collateral damage.

At times Blast has the feel of a tightly scripted play and the actors accentuate this with streamlined performances of efficient clarity.

Nora Arnezeder, Lilly (The Coyote) from Army of the Dead, is compellingly believable as the granitic Sonia. An uncompromising young woman who is hell-bent on reverse-engineering her skill sets as she rebukes the unfamiliar role of the helpless victim instead of a valourous savior.

Blast is a film comfortable in its self-contained sandbox that knows its limits and how to exploit them.

Consistently tense, imaginative, and glacially honest in its treatment of morality and interpersonal fireworks.  Much like the resilient and resourceful woman at its agonising epicenter.

★★★★

              WORLD PREMIERE

Bomb Disposal Thriller, Relationship Drama | France, 2021 | 97 mins | Cert. 15 | Dir. Vanya Peirani-Vignes | With: Nora Arnezeder, Pierre Kiwitt, Rasha Bukvic, Sara Mortensen, Edouard Montoute, Olga Korotyayeva