Anne Fontaine’s police procedural with a difference (nobody gets shot, for a start) is reminiscent of The Last Detail, in that the central characters have been detailed to escort a prisoner from a holding facility to face his fate.
In this case, the situation is one where the prisoner is not a criminal, but is a refugee facing deportation back to the country from which he fled, giving the central debate considerable moral weight.
The three police officers, Virginie (Virginie Efira) Aristide (Omar Sy) and Erik (Gregory Gadebois) each have a fairly detailed backstory drawn in the opening sequences, and while that serves to give us insight into their personal situations – Virginie’s unhappy home life with her husband and small child has led to a fling with Aristide, leaving her pregnant with a baby she does not want; Aristide, seemingly laid back and easy-going but haunted by the tragedies he’s seen in the line of duty; Eric, a solid, by-the-book cop battling his addiction to drink – once we reach the central plot we find that not a great deal of that is particularly relevant.
Sent to pick up Tohirov (Payman Maadi) from a refugee centre and take him to Charles de Gaulle airport, from where he will be flown back to Tajikstan, they are accosted by a human rights activist who tells them that the European Court will, in the next few days, rule that he can remain, but if he is returned now he faces execution.
From here on, it’s four characters in a van, and the tension mounts after Virginie opens Tohirov’s file which confirms they’re sending him back to certain death. She tries to persuade her colleagues to let him go, and the lengthy arguments which follow are what lifts the film above ordinary. Tohirov speaks neither French or English (a tad unlikely I would have thought) and can only sit there, becoming more and more bewildered, as Virginie’s attempts to bring Aristide and Erik round to her idea become more urgent as the journey wears on.
I’m not about to spoil your viewing by giving away the conclusion, I suggest you watch and enjoy for yourselves. But I will say that I found it just a little too pat. All in all, though, this one’s a winner.