A stylish and entertaining police procedural set in the shadow of the French Alps, writer-director Dominik Moll's The Night of the 12th follows a newly promoted police captain as he investigates the horrific murder of a young woman. Loosely based on a real-life French murder, the film explores misogyny, victim blaming and the lives of those tasked with finding the truth.
The story starts at Grenoble police headquarters where policeman Yohan Vives (Bastien Bouillon) is attending the retirement party of his predecessor. Yohan is young, dedicated to his work, and apparently without much else in his life, save for his night-time cycling sessions. Now a police captain in charge of the unit tasked with investigating the most serious crimes, Yohan is good-natured at the party, unaware that his first major case will soon start. Later that night, 21-year-old Clara Royer is walking home through a quiet suburb after visiting friends. She is approached by a black-clad figure, doused in petrol and set alight.
The next morning Yohan and his team speed towards the crime scene. Yohan works mostly with an older detective named Marceau (Bouli Lanners) who has marital problems and a desire to do something else with his life. When Yohan, Marceau and the team get to the murder site, they canvass the neighbourhood and break the news to Clara's parents and friends. It emerges Clara had many relationships; and many of the men she hooked up with are far from upstanding citizens (one is a complete psychopath).
Naturally all of these acquaintances are considered suspects. They are confronted in the their homes and workplaces and escorted down to headquarters for interviews with the detectives. The police work involved becomes gruelling as the days tick by and Yohan and his team try to solve the case.
The Night of the 12th offers an elevated take on crime drama, albeit one with many of the genre's elements preserved. Excellent performances help. Bastien Bouillon as Yohan is hard not to like as he remains Clara's strongest advocate, shutting down fellow officers who skirt the edges of victim blaming. Bouli Lanners as Marceau offers an equally fine turn as the older cop who is the emotional, short-fused counter to the logical and restrained Yohan.
With its gritty depiction of police work and nuanced take on how victims should be treated, The Night of the 12th proves absorbing. The odd plot-point could be questioned for credibility, and the film's climax may leave some unsatisfied, but it's still a good watch, with much to keep you hooked. It's a crime flick more polished and with more to say than most.