A lacklustre first half plagues Assayas’ globetrotting ‘thriller’ about corporate and personal manipulation, but it gets better and features Asia Argento in a strong performance.
Dir. Olivier Assayas
2007 | France | Drama/Thriller | 106 mins | 2.35:1 | English, French & Cantonese
Not rated – likely to be M18 for violence, sexual content, language and some drug material
Cast: Asia Argento, Michael Madsen, Kelly Lin
Plot: Sandra is forced to flee London after a steamy encounter with a debt ridden ex-lover ends in violence.
Awards: Official Selection (Cannes)
International Sales: Memento Films International
Subject Matter: Slightly Mature – Manipulation
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
A polarising work from Olivier Assayas, Boarding Gate at least has one consensus amongst critics—it features a strong performance by Asia Argento (the daughter of notable filmmaker Dario Argento).
She plays Sandra, who spends the first half of the picture trying to rekindle sexual sparks with an ex-romantic liaison, a wealthy businessman (Michael Madsen), whom she worked with as part of some nefarious business in the past.
Seemingly a pawn in an elaborate game of deceit, manipulation and betrayal schemed up by her current two-timing lover, Sandra finds herself as the confused star of Assayas’ globetrotting anti-thriller.
Much of the first half feels lacklustre, despite the eroticism. There’s too much dialogue and dead air, made more cinematically vacant by the absence of any accompanying music.
But it improves when thriller elements such as chase scenes and mistaken identities get in the way, especially when the film shifts to Hong Kong from France, though one might use the term ‘thriller’ here loosely for Boarding Gate isn’t exactly meant to entertain, though it is one of Assayas’ more genre-accessible works.
Where it fails, Argento’s charm and beauty make up for it; her character has much more vigour than the sometimes lumbering narrative.
Ultimately, Boarding Game plays best as a B-movie with more complexity and intellectual intent than one might imagine—its exploration of the intersection between the corporate and the personal vis-à-vis power and manipulation might intrigue viewers looking at the film from the vantage point of it being part of Assayas’ ‘International’ trilogy that includes Demonlover (2002) and Clean (2004), where culture, capital and the corporeal transit in an interconnected but also fragmented post-millennial world.