Tense drama about workers at a nuclear power plant starring Tahar Rahim
Tahar Rahim made a memorable lead for Jacques Audiard in prison thriller A Prophet, and turns in another good performance in Rebecca Zlotowski's Grand Central, a film about workers in a nuclear plant near the Rhone.
Rahim plays Gary Manda, a tough guy from Lyon with a will to work but a criminal past that's left him with fractured relationships with his family. An opportunity for regular paid work comes his way at a power plant, but the job is dangerous and his fellow workers are anxious about the dosages of radiation they absorb on a daily basis. Gary's situation becomes even more precarious when he starts a torrid sexual relationship with Karole (Lea Seydoux, from Blue is The Warmest Colour), who is the fiancé of co-worker Toni (Denis Menochet). When Karole gets pregnant, and it emerges that Toni is sterile, it's only a matter of time before Gary's deception comes to light.
Fresh from her success with Belle Epine, Zlotowski brings a documentary assurance to the scenes of Gary's working day, capturing the tedium and casual camaraderie of his daily routine. Considerable tension is elicited, but the characters are well enough drawn that the outcome of Grand Central is never clear.
Grand Central is a well-acted melodrama that plays down the romance in favour of a scathing indictment of lax standards in the nuclear power industry, with Olivier Gourmet excellent as Gary's frustrated mentor Gilles. With a divided workplace and tensions arising, it's painful to watch the men and women at work, knowing that one slip may lead to radiation poisoning or unemployment. An early scene where Gary rides a bucking bronco in a bar establishes his nerves of steel; audiences will need the same to get through this short but effective drama.
Reviewed as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2014.