Netflix's Close Review
The Female Bodyguard
The original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Noomi Rapace, hits the target with her third Netflix movie, the bodyguard thriller Close.Despite achieving stardom with her acclaimed turn in the original Dragon Tattoo trilogy, Noomi Rapace's Hollywood journey has been a little more treacherous, enjoying brief highs in the Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes sequel and then leading the charge in Ridley Scott's increasingly flawed Alien prequels, with Prometheus, before being inauspiciously carved out of the sequel, Covenant, in a way not wholly analogous to her dispatching from Hollywood itself, with her subsequent features heading in an increasingly straight-to-DVD direction by comparison (The Drop, Child 44, Rupture and Unlocked).
It's not wholly surprising, then, to see her embrace the Netflix model instead, putting in a supporting turn in the popular but flawed Bright, before playing septuplets (beat that, Van Damme!) in the engaging sci-fi thriller What Happened to Monday? Her latest effort, Close, is arguably the most polished and least gimmicky, relying instead on a more straightforward - but, equally, more effective - bodyguard thriller framework, given a welcome female bent.
After BBC's The Bodyguard, some might argue Close is a glorified TV production, but that's more a reflection on just how good TV has become.
After a tough deployment escorting a couple of journalists through hostile territory in Afghanistan, close protection officer Sam finds her next mission a jarring shift in gears, assigned to protect Zoe, the spoiled orphaned teen daughter of a recently deceased tycoon, who inherited a pivotal stake in the family fortune, making her a target for kidnap and ransom opportunists.
Initially finding their relationship abrasive - Zoe slept with her last bodyguard, and so was forced to accept a female replacement - the two eventually bond in the field, with an overreaching conspiracy building, exploding through a series of attacks in close quarters and seeing Sam slowly realising that she doesn't just have to get her ward out of the country, she has to get to the truth if she ever wants to stop the hail of bullets coming their way.
Written and directed by English filmmaker Vicky Jewson - making her first relatively high profile production - Close is based loosely on the experiences of real-life bodyguard Jacquie Davis, whose bigger clients have involved not only celebrities but even royalty. The female angle is a good one, lending the story some distinction over what could have easily otherwise been a simple Liam Neeson bruiser, coupling with the Moroccan-flavoured setting to afford a more exotic animal which puts the capable Rapace front-and-centre when the action kicks off.
After the auto-surgery of Prometheus, nobody is ever going to question Rapace's competence in stressful situations, but Close is still refreshing for pitting her as a viable physical threat to her sometimes imposing physical opponents. She's no superwoman either, which is equally refreshing, grunting and bleeding and painfully trading body blows with a multitude of opponents; using tactics and experience to win against tough odds. The story doesn't afford her much room for background - there's a thinly analogous friction with an estranged daughter and some contrived chemistry with a fellow bodyguard - but Sam is a better character when she's a machine, doing what she needs to do in order to get the job done.
A straightforward but effective bodyguard thriller, given a welcome female bent.
Jewson acquits herself well here, staging a series of effective action sequences, from the stage-setting opening scene to ambushes in a number of locations and even an atypically stylish underwater confrontation which reminds you that this relatively fresh new filmmaker isn't content to merely plot things out by the book.
Political and personal machinations lend the feature a little more plot than you might expect, giving a decent framework to the streamlined 90 minute thriller. Sure, after BBC's The Bodyguard, some might argue Close is little more than a glorified feature-length TV production, but that's not a slight on the low budget feature, but instead more a reflection on just how good TV has become. And, indeed, for Rapace this could be a good fit for more Netflix exploits. Hardly groundbreaking, it's a solid start to the year for Netflix's Original Movies.
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