Sometimes I distress over the trends of modern movies. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the emphasis on novel new filmmaking technologies, experimental narrative techniques, and a kind of added dose of reality. I’m a fan of more truth in cinema, and a creation of a greater sense of place through a fidelity to reality. However, sometimes a guy just wants to see a simple story told in a classic, straightforward style with characters who fit into simple archetypes and yet comport themselves with vitality. I’m not advocating laziness, far from it. I’m advocating simplicity, talent, energy, and fun.
And man, do you deliver on those promises. Sure, with an R rating you probably could have reached an even greater height of sublime mindless action. However, given your constraints, and given the almost impenetrable layer of cheese laid over your narrative, you end up being a miraculous actioner that delivers thrills, comfortable story beats, and a massive amount of humor.
Of course the core of this enjoyment is the performance of Guy Pearce as Snow, a one-named rogue agent in the same vein as John McClane. He cracks wise, takes a punch, gets the girl, and never lets a dire situation get him down. His introduction, during a brutal interrogation led by his superior officer and chief same-side-antagonist Langral (a reliable Peter Stromare), is a great piece of economical character development. Likewise, the setup of Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace) as the president’s humanitarian daughter is simple and to the point. When things on the maximum security space prison she is visiting go topsy turvy and she ends up a hostage and Snow is given a chance at redemption in the eyes of his superiors so long as he can get her out alive.
Inside of this basic framework is a lot of nonsense about double agents selling government secrets, prisoners used as deep-space guinea pigs, and the value of true heroism. But does any of that matter? Not beyond giving the characters reasons to stick around or create plot complications. Nothing here makes a lot of sense, but it doesn’t have to. The bad guys are all suitably deformed and psychotic, the good guy is suitable grizzled, and the suits back in the office have the common and necessary dichotomy of one hard ass and one grudging ally. Everything is in place, and everyone brings their all to the roles they have been assigned.
As I said, though, there are times when your attempts to fit into a PG-13 rating blunt your story. Snow definitely seems like the type of person to curse when things go wrong, but he never lets loose in a real way. Likewise, a lot of violence happens off screen, and you never see a direct gunshot or stabbing. Still, this is a small complaint, and though it is vaguely distracting in one or two scenes, it doesn’t detract from the pure joy of Guy Pearce snarling his way through an ever-complicating series of events.
Not much else to say, really. You’re a good film. You had me laughing and entertained and when I walked out of you I immediately thought to myself, “I sure hope I get to see some more Snow in the future.” And really, what more could you want from a film that asks so little of you in return?
Brian J. Roan