I can’t think of a film that’s made me more physically uneasy than SLEEPLESS NIGHT, a testament both to its unique setting and the skills of its filmmakers.
The film starts with a bang, literally. Gunshots ring out as a car is hijacked for its lucrative shipment. In the mélee, one of the attackers has his skimask ripped off, exposing his face. We quickly learn that he’s a cop, Vincent. In order to recover the drugs, the owner of a nightclub kidnaps Vincent’s son, threatening his life until it is returned. The “bad” cop breaks protocol and enters the club looking for his son, the “good” cops enter following Vincent, and thus is setup a cat-and-mouse chase through a teaming, sweaty mass of clubbing Eurotrash.
It can’t be underestimated the role that the location plays in the effectiveness of the film – time after time Jardin manages to wring moments of great tension out of the simplest things – trying to get from one side of the room to another, trying to hear one another against the incessant din of the club, and so on. The film embodies every single awful feeling that one gets from attending these dance clubs, without the opportunity to grow increasingly intoxicated or perhaps go home with a partner of convenience. Instead we’re left with the terrible thump of the music drowning out all sense, obnoxious patrons vying for a spot at the bar, all ways of introducing challenges along our heroes journey. I can’t help but feel that Ulysses might have had a worst time listening to shitty French disco than he did battling through his own oddysey.
We’ve got a kid in jeopardy that genuinely feels at risk, we’ve got colourful constelation of baddies constantly vying against one another, and we’ve got a delightfully anarchic morality for most of the characters we follow. The film bounces back and forth with abandon, the stakes growing ever higher, all within the confined space with a seemingly infinite number of chambers, each a unique challenge. We learn in time the geography of the place, and it’s in the way the filmmakers reuse certain locations that makes the film quite remarkable – it’s because we’re now familiar from a previous scene with the given room that the shock of the new even is made more palpable.
Extremely well crafted and executed, SLEEPLESS NIGHT would be an exceptional TIFF film regardless of its inclusion in the Midnight Madness program. Given a chance it easily could have the response (and respect) often denied, often needlessly, from film set in this program. Without succumbing to silly tricks, the film manages the magical act of making one completely immersed it its location, feeling every anxiety of our lead character as he fights through the crowd, the noise and the chaos. A visceral, thrilling film, SLEEPLESS NIGHT is an absolute blast.