Jason Bourne and Jack Ryan fans take note: A new girl has come to our movie screens and she can kick butt just as well as the boys can. UNLOCKED stars Swedish actress Noomi Rapace (the original THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) as Alice Racine, a CIA interrogator who is on a break from the agency after a terrorist attack in Paris took place on her watch. Now working as a caseworker at a social service agency in London while she clears her head, she hears about a possible planned attack in that city and immediately notifies her former colleague at Britain’s MI5, Emily Knowles (Toni Collette, MURIEL’S WEDDING). It turns out to be a red herring but, soon after, Alice receives two phone calls that may or may not be connected. First, she is contacted by her old mentor, Eric Lasch (Michael Douglas) who tries to convince her to return to her old job, and then she is contacted by the Agency to help them out with an interrogation. It seems that someone really is planning an attack in London, this time targeting Americans and involving a biological weapon. For the next hour or so, we watch as Alice goes on a wild roller coaster ride to try to get to the source of the threat and stop the attack before its too late. However, what she finds along the way is that things aren’t always as they seem.
If Bourne- or Ryan-type films are your thing, you can do far worse than UNLOCKED. (I have yet to figure out what the title has to do with the story, by the way.) Rapace, with her diminutive figure and understated looks, is certainly entertaining to watch and she handles the action sequences very well, but this story does not tread on any new ground. Worse, however, is that it’s the cinematic equivalent of scratching your right ear with your left hand. It’s unnecessarily convoluted and probably so because if you take out all the extraneous parts, you’re left with a 20-minute movie. It seems that screenwriter Peter O’Brien took ideas from other films of this genre, including THE SUM OF ALL FEARS and the 1977 film, BLACK SUNDAY, and melded them all together into one script. As a result, the audience can figure out the location of the attack long before Alice and the CIA can.
To the film’s credit, director Michael Apted (THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH; the “UP” series of social documentaries) got good performances out of his all-star cast, although Orlando Bloom’s Cockney accent was way over the top and John Malkovich played an imitation of himself but it’s John Malkovich so we can forgive him. There is one brief scene between Malkovich and Collette that is quite amusing. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that this was unscripted.
I wouldn’t mind seeing more films about Alice Racine (and the door is left wide open for that possibility), but if they’re going to be successful, the producers are going to have to get better writers than O’Brien on board. Certainly, Noomi Rapace has the moves and the acting chops to make such a franchise work.
If you can overlook all the unnecessary twists and turns, and a less than spectacular climax, UNLOCKED is a fairly enjoyable thriller. Not the best out there but worth watching nevertheless.
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live in RTHK Radio 4’s studio on Thursday, January 11th at 8:30 am HK time!
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