Warning: The following review might contain some mild spoiler alerts. I won’t point them out. Don’t read if you’re going to see the movie and want to be surprised (although it’s doubtful you’ll be surprised, when so much of this you’ve seen before).
I walked out of the press screening hearing two critics praise this movie. One of them said “Imagine that…a thriller without the car chases and not a single gun in the whole movie!”
Well, that’s a rather flawed statement. You can’t say it’s a thriller without those goofy things we think of with a Tom Cruise or Matt Damon type of movie, when I can count two strangulation attempts, one person almost thrown out of a window, a car crash, and those villains that have been done to death. You know the kind – an Oscar-winning British actor, that smugly tells you why he’ll get what he wants whether you cooperate or not. That character is played by the always wonderful Jim Broadbent, yet I couldn’t help think two things. Why doesn’t he ask Eric Bana to go along with what the government wants in a more polite way? Instead, they do it like this so we really want Bana to nail his a** to the wall. It’s a cheap movie character ploy.
Second, when they have their big breakfast near the end, Broadbent says something that almost assures he’ll get what he wants out of Bana. Well…why didn’t he start with that discussion in the beginning? Oh right! We need to build tension for the audience.
This is no different than any other movie you’ll see with lawyers that want to do the right thing, corrupt politicians, blackmail, murder attempts, and that shady cabbie you’re not sure if you can really trust. The only difference is we’re dealing with barristers in England that wear wigs when they go to court (who knew they had locker rooms?).
Martin (Eric Bana) and Claudia (Rebecca Hall) are defending a terrorist that killed hundreds in an explosion at a market. For some reason, they jeopardize their careers by not telling their boss they had an affair. Strange, since they say the affair cost him his marriage. I’m guessing that means others know about this as well. Hardly a little secret that would be easy to keep.
Which means we get that clichéd scene where Martin is spending time with his son, asks the ex-wife if he could have a few more hours. She storms off, slamming the car door, and peeling out without answering.
It’s crazy that director John Crowley, who blew me away with Boy A in 2007, couldn’t liven things up a bit. Don’t get me wrong, the slow pace was fine. But there were a few moments of paranoia that were rather fun. It reminded me of being 13-years-old and watching The Conversation for the first time.
Unfortunately, other scenes reminded me of The Verdict, A Few Good Men, and The Ghost Writer.
The cast is great, even if Julia Stiles character was rather unnecessary. She plays that newspaper reporter that knows the real story. She provides the exposition, which we get a lot of in this movie.
I also think the movie tried for this whole big brother, draconian vibe that never really comes across the way the filmmakers thought it was.
The movie has a few things that are implausible (we can start with Rebecca Hall being able to beat up a heavy sent to kill her). Yep. Another movie where lawyers become Jason Bourne when it fits the script.
Now, all those complaints aside – I didn’t mind watching the film. Courtroom dramas are right in my wheelhouse. The fact that it took place in England was different. Instead of the lawyer lifting weights or playing basketball, that means he’s rowing. Also interesting to find out that the judge says in closed door sessions, “Okay, wigs off!”
This is really nothing more than a cookie cutter drama with accents. You won’t be disappointed, but you won’t be blown away, either.
It gets 2 ½ stars out of 5.