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Carry off spying

Clichéd action movie illustrates the crisis of confidence that film studios are going through during the 'War on Terror'

05 May, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Noomi Rapace in Unlocked

Directed by Michael Apted
Certificate 15

SCHLOCKY action movie-makers live in confusing times. When making a spy film today, studios have a clear baddie they can call on, in the shape of some kind of Isis terrorist, a bogeyman for the West that the Friday night crowd want to see get duffed up.

But how do they also square the fact that the heroes of yesteryear – the democracy-defending USA – have, since the end of the Second World War, been involved in disastrous conflicts, and the cinema-goer knows the people fighting the War on Terror are doing so from desks in air bases and the drones they use have been known to land on innocent people? It means the modern spy film has this crisis of confidence where the simple fact is everyone is a baddie. It has created the rogue agent, the person who joins the agencies to fight terror, but soon realises their employers are the same, just with bigger guns.

It feels very much like with Michael Apted’s Unlocked we have reached saturation point for this premise. We really do not need any more “thrillers” where a highly trained agent realises that their loyalty to their employer may be misplaced.

Orlando Bloom’s Mockney dialogue fails to convince

In this London-based film, CIA operative Alice Rancine (Noomi Rapace) believes she failed to stop a terrorist atrocity in Paris and so is doing some more languid fieldwork in the guise of collecting information.

But from her desk job, feeding minor tips about possible threats upwards, she stumbles into a plot to unleash a deadly toxin in public places. But is this a straightforward terror attack, or does her CIA operator (Michael Douglas cheesing it up big time) know more than he is letting on?

There is little in the way of suspense: instead, we are offered a series of clichéd locations for gun fights and punch-ups to play out in front of. Think of underground car parks and shots of Trellick Tower and you get the idea.

The thing that makes this all the more galling is that in Apted you have an original thinking director, someone who has brought us such gems as the TV series 7-Up, through to films including The World Is Not Enough and Gorillas In The Mist.

Thrown in is a cast that has four big hitters, including John Malkovich as the Langley head. He is the best thing about this film, simply for his delivery of unintentionally hilarious lines. Orlando Bloom, I’m afraid, suffers particularly from some seriously awful, guffaw-inducing Mockney dialogue: he should really be on the phone to Equity to take action against the scriptwriter.


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