Review by Camden Ferrell
“Each year, the French police open more than 800 murder investigations. Nearly 20% remain unsolved.” These words are included in the opening of Dominik Moll’s newest film The Night of the 12th. Based on the book, 18.3 – Une année à la PJ, the film had its premiere in 2022 at the Cannes Film Festival. Successful due to how disciplined and grounded it is, this is a crime movie that is compelling even if it’s content to stay within the pre-established lanes of the genre.
Clara is a young woman that is randomly assaulted one night and dies as a result. Yohan is the investigator assigned to this case. With the help of his colleagues, he hopes to solve this brutal murder before it can haunt him anymore. It may not be breaking new ground for the crime drama genre, but it has a chilling case at its core inspired by real events. Fans of true crime movies will easily find this an interesting and tragic story worth telling.
The screenplay by Moll and Gilles Marchand is relatively tight and safe. More times than not, it follows the same structure of most crime movies. It makes sure to hit all the narrative points that occur in police investigations, and its beats are familiar. However, there are a handful of choices that the script makes to go beneath the surface to understand how a case as brutal as this one can crawl under the skin of the people investigating it.
One of the more interesting reasons that this movie works well is that there’s no real stand out performance. Clearly, a lot of credit must be given to Bastien Bouillon for his leading performance, but he never tries to show off his acting with any flashy moments. Nobody in the ensemble is trying to act out the other. As a result, nobody stands apart from the rest, but with a story like this, the more reserved and somber approach makes the film more realistic and troubling to watch at times. It also allows the actors, specifically Bouillon, to be more subtle with the way they express the wide range of emotions associated with a murder investigation.
From the start, we know this case goes unsolved. The movie honors the tragedy of a life taken too soon while also coming face to face with the futility of this case. We know that nothing will be resolved, and justice will not be served, and it makes the movie all the more tragic. Despite knowing how it ends, one can’t help but still watch in suspense, hoping for the best from a bad situation. The movie may not take any risks to elevate itself overall, but it is all around good filmmaking from start to finish.
The Night of the 12th might fly under the radar for most, but it ‘s a great crime drama that is worth checking out for fans of this type of film. As mentioned before, it won’t blow anyone’s minds or expand the limits of the genre, but it’s a solid entry that sees great work from everyone involved. Far from perfect, this is still an emotional and suspenseful story that is inspired by true events.
The Night of the 12th is in select theaters starting May 19.