Sunday, November 26, 2017

'Unlocked' Review: Michael Apted's Female Spy

Poster artwork for Unlocked, starring Noomi Rapace as CIA interrogator Alice Racine.

British director Michael Apted tends to give relevance to female characters in his movies. A well-known example is The World Is Not Enough, the 1999 James Bond adventure where -in an unexpected twist- the mastermind behind the threat was none other that the oil heiress Bond was meant to protect. The film also gave more relevance to the female M played by Judi Dench since Pierce Brosnan's debut in GoldenEye by having the lead of MI6 be a close acquaintance of the victim-turned-villainess.

This year, Apted surprised us with Unlocked, a political spy thriller starring Noomi Rapace, known for the Swedish film versions of Strieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy. Though the film isn't perfect (feels a bit confusing at times), it will please those who want a relevant spy thriller with intense action scenes that feel clean and tidy. Instead of going for complex shooting techniques of fast shots and close-ups that leave the audiences startled, Apted went for a more conventional way of approaching the action scenes, with more distant shots allowing the audiences to take some distance from the shootouts and fistfights, unlike what most directors tend to do now (see Atomic Blonde or the Kingsman saga).

Alice (Noomi Rapace) loses its cool with Jack Alcott
(Orlando Bloom)
The story has a very convincing acting by Rapace as Alice, a former CIA interrogator taking a desk job after feeling the guilt of not preventing a terrorist attack in Paris in 2012. After being called back to duty, she is deceived by enemy agents who infiltrated the organization and learns that a new attack is being planned on England. In a race against time, she will learn that things -and people she knew and respected- were not what they seemed.

John Malkovich delivers an outstanding performance as a CIA director Bob Hunter (was the Barack Obama portrait in his office an in-joke of some kind we don't follow?) and so does Orlando Bloom, who has lost his baby face by now, as an US Army veteran turned mugger. The rest of the cast is completed by the efficient Toni Collette as Emily Knowles, the head of MI5 who has a friendly relationship with the protagonist (a slight touch of Judi Dench's M, maybe?) and Michael Douglas as Alice's former chief and mentor.

The cinematography offers good establishing shots of London during day and night, with a good use of shadows during the very last minutes that will be a bit reminiscent to Survivor, the 2015 film starring Milla Jovovich and Pierce Brosnan. Stephen Barton's soundtrack also helps us to delve our focus into the modern intelligence world.

Overall, Unlocked is a production that succeeds in entertaining the audience, and perhaps what makes it effective is its simplicity in the shooting of the action sequences. And simplicity in this case doesn't mean dull or uninteresting, because there is indeed a lot of blood in the characters face and body, with the gunshots feeling real and not comic book-ish. It is just that in this case we are invited to enjoy the acton instead of living inside it.

Nicolás Suszczyk

No comments:

Post a Comment