It’s your typical spy thriller only this time there’s no hunky male in the lead.
Agent Alice Racine is in a race against time to stop a deadly virus being released somewhere in London in the new thriller Unlocked.Most people have seen a spy thriller once or twice and in most cases the spy in question has always been a male - that is until now. Director Michael Apted brings us Unlocked - a new action thriller with Noomi Rapace in the lead and an A list supporting cast, but does that make a decent film? Working undercover in London’s East End, Alice Racine (Rapace) spends her days seeking out potential extreme Islamist terror groups and feeding any useful information to her contact in MI5. Alice used to work in the field but is haunted by a terrorist attack in Paris that she was unable to prevent. Still scarred by her past Alice tells her old agency boss (Michael Douglas) she is reluctant to return to active duty but when a deadly virus is threatened to be unleashed somewhere in London, Alice hesitantly accepts her orders.As with all espionage films, things aren’t always what they seem and sure enough, Alice soon finds herself on the run from both armed police and government agents. Unsure of who to trust Alice finds an unlikely ally in the form of an ex-marine turned thief (Orlando Bloom) who reckons he’ll come in handy thanks to his former training. A few cheeky chappie one-liners later and the two are working together to try and stop the virus from being releashed. Trying to keep tabs on her movements and bring her in for debriefing are the head of the CIA (John Malkovich) and his UK counterpart, the head of MI5 (Toni Collette). However Alice is cautious of who to trust, sensing that somewhere along the way one or even both government agencies may have been compromised, putting her in grave danger.
In theory Unlocked has the potential to be a half decent spy film, especially considering the A list cast attached. Unfortunately though, potential is all there is. Apted, who has experience in the spy genre with his Bond film The World Is Not Enough, seems to have gone through a rigorous checklist of what to include which results in a rigid and extremely formulaic storyline. The opening gets off to a reasonable start featuring shots of key central London locations, all in an effort to heighten the impact of the terrorist threat no doubt, but quickly tails off into the land of predictability. There are a couple of moments that do manage to build suspense, the interrogation scene being the main one, but alas any suspense dissipates almost as quickly as it’s built.
The few gun fights and action sequences added into the mix manage to keep the film moving along but it never fully reaches the level of intensity you would hope to see from a film with a deadly virus threat at its heart. In a secret lab hidden away somewhere in London we watch as a scientist readies the virus for its release but even these scenes fail to add any intensity to the film and end up looking flat and lifeless. We do get to see what effect the virus will have but it feels like an afterthought that was squeezed in, in a last ditch attempt to add a layer of severity. For a film of just over 90 minutes it does drag in the second half, leaving any resolution confined to the end of the final act, which it just about manages to pull off, tying things up whilst leaving just enough space to hint at a possible sequel.
The film has a decent opening but quickly tails off into the land of predictability
The storyline isn’t the only factor that seems to be lacking, the acting for the most part is borderline laughable and fails to add anything compelling to the film. Of course Rapace is given the most backstory, her character has a troubled past but one that propelled her into the espionage field. Rapace is probably the only saving grace of the film as she fights her way through the narrative giving an emotionally charged performance in an effort to save the city. On the other end of the spectrum is Bloom who has employed a troubling mockney accent, a man bun and numerous tattoos as the ex-marine, video game playing sidekick. In small roles that don’t really help to up the ante are Malkovich and Douglas; Malkovich drops in now and again via Skype or FaceTime to add an air of authority with Douglas taking on a fatherly role - both seeming to just be in it for the paycheque. Collette has a bit more backbone and meat to her role, but as with Malkovich and Douglas, leaves most of the action to Rapace.
For fans of the spy genre Unlocked may peak your interest but a lack of tension and suspense might leave you feeling slightly deflated. It’s a simple film and while it doesn’t offer up anything new or exciting, aside from maybe the female lead angle, it does have a few twists up its sleeve — that is if you haven’t figured them out long before the end.
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