Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Expatriate Review

Director: Philipp Stolzl
Writer: Arash Amel

Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Olga Kurylenko, Liana Liberato, Neil Napier, Garrick Hagon, Alexander Fehling

Synopsis: Ben Logan (Eckhart) and his daughter, Amy (Liberato) started a new life in Belgium after Ben’s job sent him overseas. He’s moved past the struggle of moving abroad and is at the top of his game with work. However, one stolen document leads the company into disrepair and Ben’s life is shattered; he and his daughter have to fight to stay alive once the conspiracy threatens everything.

Never underestimate the influence of a franchise; they may spawn a dozens to hundreds of similar films, setting the bar high, with not everyone able to improve on it. With The Expatriate it’s the opening with a John Powell-esque score and location subtitling that immediately harks back to Bourne. Replicating such a respected set of aesthetics and features from one of the best spy series in film is a bold move. And whilst both Expatriate and Bourne begin with some action or mystery, it’s only the latter that strikes the perfect key.

Arash Amel’s writing is relatively dull, and the crucial emotional relationship between Ben and his daughter is never all that special. It leads to a hum-drum state of affairs where you are never connected with the main characters. This problem gets exceedingly worse as the plot unravels superfluously and time drags on – by the end you have incentive to care about anything or anyone.

One notable aspect of the film is its hand-to-hand combat, nearly always appearing realistic. For a film not under the restrictions of a 12A/PG-13 certificate, or let loose with an 18 certificate, the violence is handled perfectly. Certain gun wounds, punches or tackles are felt as they’re unleashed – and never lingered on or cut away from awkwardly.

An overly-long example in the CIA/corporation-does-bad genre with moments of great action. Eckhart should not become the new action hero and The Expatriate reminds of us of his skill in dramas and punchy political parodies (if you haven’t seen Thank You for Smoking do so ASAP). Meanwhile, his co-star Liana Liberato (who was terrific in Trust) has no chance to show off her talent with the two-dimensional stock character. It’s a forgettable, occasionally entertaining, B-movie that does no favours for the cast and crew but will once again prove stunt-coordinator Frédéric Dessains’ expertise in his profession.

By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on Flickering Myth

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