Sometimes simplicity is the best way of conveying a powerful message and when it comes to 3 part Documentary Series November 13: Attack On Paris, that’s certainly the case. Documenting the horrific events that transpired in Paris on November 13th 2015, Attack On Paris takes a much more human approach to the incident, focusing on the people rather than the global reasoning behind the attacks. Although some of the accounts do overlap which can lead to a bit of repetition, it’s worth remembering this is a documentary much more focused on the emotion and human effects of this tragedy rather than the reasoning behind the attacks.
After a brief introduction, the series begins with events leading up to the International friendly between France and Germany in the Stade de France. An ominous, unnerving blast rocks the blissfully unaware spectators inside the stadium as France suffers its worst attack since World War II. A series of coordinated terrorist strikes around the fringes of Paris, including a hostage situation inside the Bataclan Theatre and terrorists firing on nearby restaurants, see 130 people lose their lives and a further 413 injured. November 13: Attack On Paris feels much more grounded in its approach though, deciding against sensationalist headlines or over-dramatised narration by focusing much more on the human side of the incident.
Shot and edited with a variety of emergency calls, eye-witness accounts and various civil servants working on the scene that night, this 3 part documentary sporadically jumps between the different people involved with each episode continuing on from the last. The final two episodes predominantly stick to the Bataclan Theatre, going into detail on the events transpiring inside involving a hostage situation and an incredibly tense, scary situation that saw over 80 people lose their lives. Much like fellow documentary series Evil Genius, Attack On Paris sticks with a much more conventional way of spinning its tale, staying close to the usual conventional tropes you’d expect from a series like this. Expect to see a lot of talking heads, smart phone footage and establishing shots of locations while narration from victims tells of their harrowing experience throughout the series.
Although both absorbing and shocking, it’s worth noting that this French documentary series is, as you’d expect, told completely in French. While this alone makes it perfectly serviceable, some of the subtitles are sloppily handled with numerous grammatical errors and frequent bouts of white writing on white backgrounds making it difficult to discern what people are supposed to be saying. It’s not a deal breaker and for the most part it isn’t too distracting but there’s enough errors here to make it worth mentioning, devaluing the overall quality of this documentary.
Having said all of that, November 13: Attack On Paris is another very engrossing documentary series from Netflix. While it may not be the most in-depth or polished documentary series out there, what it lacks in polish, it makes up for with an emotional punch as it tells a very touching, human story. It’s ultimately this personal approach to telling each of the victims’ stories as opposed to a politically charged, hard-hitting series about what caused this in the first pace that makes this such an emotionally charged documentary. While it may not be the best offering Netflix has released, it’s certainly one of the most important, highlighting that even in the darkest times, love will prevail – a beautiful message juxtaposed against an ugly, unfortunate attack on French soil.