This is another case of fantastic acting bad total package. You might have read my Daughter of the Wolf review? Same category but for different reasons. In the case of Daughter of the Wolf it was a case of “you don’t let kids who read superhero comics write scripts and direct movies about real people.” In the case of this movie, “if the director believes in art for the sake of art, fire them.”
I’m not going to empty my colon on the movie though. Blake Lively delivers an Oscar worthy performance. Her character endures unending physical and mental brutality to be beaten into the instrument she must become. Jude Law does an amazing job portraying the MI6 operative out in the code both abusing her and egging her on to try and kill him. Yes, he does that repeatedly to prove just how worthless she is in this world of spies, terrorists, and assassins.
Film Falls Apart Right Out of the Gate
Blake plays the daughter of a lower upper class family. They work for a living but are well enough off to vacation across Europe. She chooses not to join them on vacation and they get taken out in the Lockerbie Scottland bombing. As a starting point, not bad. A bit dated, but not bad.
From there they jump to her working as a whore in a brothel, strung out on drugs. An investigative reporter comes to talk with her and gets thrown out. She endures some mental trauma, then runs to him. The writers did not know what to do with the reporter so they killed him off almost immediately after Blake’s character starts crashing there.
The Cruel Tutelage of Pai Mei
By and large the training Blake’s character receives from Jude Law seems based on The Cruel Tutelage of Pai Mei. You would need to watch the Kill Bill franchise to understand that reference. It’s the trope of the punishing evil master beating a lump of clay until it turns into a titanium steel alloy capable of surviving and hacking anything. Honestly this is the best part of the movie.
From there they move to her begging for financing, and trying to kill her way up the terrorist finance network to find the person responsible for the bomb being on the plane. When she fails to kill one up close and personal like with a blade, Jude Law’s character has a backup plan of a bomb in the vehicle taking out the target and his kids. The scene is meant to cement the “at all costs” nature of the business concept. It almost works.
We Fall Apart Again Shortly After That
I cannot really explain it without completely trashing the “who done-it” aspect of the story. Suffice it to say, you’ll know it when you watch it. The story line in this phase of the movie falls apart around Sterling K. Brown’s character. Again, this is not due to bad acting. He actually does a fantastic job. This is a problem of the writers not knowing what to do, not given enough time, and not paid enough to bounce ideas off whoever they needed to so they could get a good new spy scenario.
The writers and directory really needed to rent Smiley’s People before they set off on this endeavor. You start with a really good spy story, then you add the action. You don’t start with a fuzzy idea of a spy story, hurl lots of disjointed action scenes at the audience, and hope a spy story falls out of all that.
Summary – Fantastic acting, bad total package
If you like to watch great acting and can live without a good story, this movie is for you. Put it on the list for when you are snowed in with a 12-pack and frozen pizza. The great acting and action should fit nicely around you getting up for another beer and heading to the bathroom. Unlike Daughter of the Wolf, you can’t fix this by recutting it. That whole leap from well-to-do daughter to whore in a brothel in a not good part of town either needed a story to get there or it needed to go away. It’s almost like the wrote the movie in reverse and ran out of time writing the opening so they couldn’t go back and fix everything else they left as “to-do.”