Director: Simon West.
I could never understand the hate for Michael Bay being a rubbish director. Yes, I get it about the objectifying of women, but about supposedly not contributing anything good to the world of cinema is strong, especially when we have directors like Simon West in comparison. I know that's a pretty harsh knock and whilst I actually enjoy some of his movies, I can't see anything new that he brings to the screen using techniques and trickery we've all seen so many times before.
He directed Tomb Raider, The Mechanic, Expendables 2, all mildly entertaining but never being at the top of their genre; and I have a personal distaste for Con Air. Wild Card and The General's Daughter are the only two I actually rate, but my enjoyment from Wild Card is probably down to fight coordinator, Brad Martin. So, when I see West as being attached to direct anything I go in with fairly low expectations.
The film is a possible franchise adaptation of the titular novels penned by Duncan Falconer, a pseudonym for the former SBS commando. While the film doesn't inspire me to read these novels he was contracted to write by Time Warner starting back in 2003, it does make me wanting to read what got him the attention in the first place; his autobiography "First into Action" about his service with the Special Boat Service and other elite intelligence units.
For those of you not familiar with the SBS, it's not cheap a ripoff of the SAS as some might disrespectfully assume. The Royal Navy's elite force actually precedes the Army's SAS, but let's not get this into being a competition. Falconer was one of nine marines, out of 147 candidates to make the grade of Commando and served 12 years during The Troubles with Northern Ireland and the Falklands War, including high risk operations in Palestine, the rest of the Middle East and Africa.
The reasons for my detail on the background of this film is because the character of John Stratton is quite unique from your usual espionage hero. Unlike Bond, Bourne or Hunt and Mills. Stratton is very much a character based on a real person; Falconer. It even touches on Stratton's childhood which is a mirror image of Falconer's own. Of course, this storyline with be heavily dramatise in comparison and the IRA have been replaced with different terrorists to suit the current climate.
We follow our protagonist into the world of covert operations, in attempt to stop a potentially lethal bioweapon being set off by an international terrorist cell. Paired up with fellow Navy SEAL, him and team go on a fairly decent paced hunt across Europe chasing a former FSB ghost.
Dominic Cooper takes the lead as Stratton and I do wonder what the real life 'Stratton' thinks of his performance. Originally the part was Henry Cavill's who dropped out prior to filming due to artistic differences with the script. While many might be upset with the exit from Cavill, Cooper performance isn't the let down the here. In fact, apart from Nielsen's dodgy posh accent that makes her sound like an intoxicated Eva Green, all the performances are up to expected par. I thought Chan was brilliant and Stowell added a Hemsworth quality to his part.
What does let the film down majorly is the poor editing and the sound in some parts. The vehicular chases are good and real enough, reminding me a little of Ronin. But the fight scenes and shoot outs are not as dramatic as they should have been. It's unpolished which doesn't make any more real or gritty but flawed and shows bad editing in attempt to flesh out the sequences. And, what actually pushes completely off balance is Nathaniel Méchaly's over dramatic score.
It isn't terrible, I've seen far worse, but it doesn't give me any more hope for West as a director. It had great potential to be a good addition to the likes of Bourne and Bond, and I would welcome a franchise to honour Falconer's life and work. But lets have someone else behind the camera.
Running Time: 6
The Cast: 7
Job Description: 5
The Extra Bonus Point: 0