Good French heist movies have been thin on the ground over the last few years, a fault director Eric Barbier has now set right with Le Dernier Diamant, a tense, well-constructed thriller with enough twists and turns to keep audiences guessing until the final credits. The US has pretty much cornered the market in this type of film, most recently with George Clooney’s Ocean’s franchise, and Le Dernier Diamant is definitely cut from the same cloth. But, as you expect from the French, it comes complete with a lot more violence and sex.
Yvan Attal is Simon, a small-time thief and con-man, who is persuaded by his accomplice Albert (Jean-Francois Stévenin) to join forces with a criminal gang in stealing the infamous Florentin diamond. The heist is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Simon to score big and involves befriending a gem-expert, Julia (Bérénice Bejo), in the run-up to the high-profile auction of the diamond. By posing as a security consultant, Simon blags his way into Julia’s confidence and eventually her bed. The robbery is successful, but events afterwards take an unexpected turn.
Barbier has cleverly brought together the elements of a classic heist – an object of immense value surrounded by impenetrable security – and added a bit of black humour for good measure. Le Dernier Diamant is a stylish, sassy film with a catchy, jazz-based soundtrack giving it a cool 1960s retro feel – the music was written by the director’s brother Renaud who also wrote the soundtrack for Barbier’s previous film, Le Serpent. The planning of the robbery is nicely orchestrated with the logistical elements gradually brought together under the watchful eye of Simon. Some plot devices do push the limits of credibility – Julia’s willingness to believe Simon’s cover as a security consultant, for example. But this is soon forgotten as the story gathers speed and the audience is kept guessing over who can and cannot be trusted.
Attal can turn his hand to any style of film. Here he mixes comedy, crime and romance with consummate ease. And Bejo is easily his equal. After stunning audiences with her performance in The Artist, for which she received an 2012 Oscar nomination, she went on to win Best Actress award for The Past at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Le Dernier Diamant is another change of register for this talented actress ands she is completely at home in the role of the vulnerable, slightly neurotic, Julia.
The North American and English-language remake rights for the film have already been snapped up. It will be interesting to see whether a Trans-Atlantic angle will deliver the same thrill.
DIRECTOR’S BIO – ERIC BARBIER