Directed by: Dominik Moll
Written by: Dominik Moll, Gilles Marchand
Starring: Bastien Bouillon, Bouli Lanners, Anouk Grinberg, Pauline Serieys, Mouna Soualem, Lula Cotton-Frapier
Released: October 13, 2022
Grade: A-

The Night of the 12th

When it comes to movies about spies, detectives and police officers, the tendency is to simplify and glamorise their activities.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Audiences want to be entertained.  The James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Lethal Weapon franchises won’t win awards for realism but they’ve made truckloads of money because of their fun characters, cool tech, and elaborate action sequences.

All of that said, it’s still nice to see a more realistic perspective and we’ve been offered that in back-to-back weeks here in Australia.  Last Thursday marked the release of The Stranger, a dark, gritty Aussie film about an undercover detective required to put in months of depressing, unsatisfying work with a likelihood it could all amount to nought.  This week, we’ve got The Night of the 12th, a Belgian-French drama about experienced police officers struggling to make any headway into the murder of a young woman.      

It’s not quite as good (it goes close) but the film brings back memories of David Fincher’s brilliant 2007 thriller, Zodiac.  It taps into the draining nature of the profession and the ways in which a long- unsolved case can take a toll on one’s personal life, including friendships with colleagues.  Front and centre throughout the film is Yohan (Bouillon), the newly appointed lead detective who is overseeing the investigation.

It’s a tricky subject matter but I admired the film for two key reasons.  Firstly, it gets into the weeds and shows us the intricacies of the job.  We watch Yohan as he carefully breaks the news to the deceased woman’s parents, we see the team going through her bedroom and phone in search of clues, and we listen in as they interrogate a wide range of friends and ex-boyfriends.  There’s even a scene highlighting the tedious effort required to type up interview notes.

The other reason is for the strong performances and the way in which the cast, guided by the direction of Dominik Moll (Harry, He’s Here to Help), skilfully illustrate the ups and downs of work friendships.  There are moments of tension when they disagree about suspects and motives.  There are arguments driven by outside-of-work problems which affect judgement and performance.  On the flip side, there are more positive moments where detectives reach a depressing low point and need a kind face to vent and confide in.  A great example is a scene where Yohan has a relaxed chat with a new judge.

Another film to debut at the Cannes Film Festival back in May (there’s been a few of them lately), The Night of the 12th is a powerful, unnerving drama that hasn’t received a lot of international attention but should not be missed.