Cast: Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto
Director: Aleksander Bach
Rating: 2 stars
Ten minutes before the film closes, the hero of the piece — Agent 47 — and its heroine, Katia, saunter into an elevator: Desperado style. We hear the elevator ting into action, the doors close — and then, a strange oddity. As the guitar in the background hits downtuned power chords, the two leads just keep standing, absolutely still, resigned to inaction by the elevator’s patient, tired upward drone. They allow this peculiar rhythm, anomalous to the heavy activity of the rest of the film, to wash over them: Katia takes a few seconds to tie her hair; 47 grimaces in discomfort at the icky, fake blood that streams down his forehead.
It is a moment that features the intimacy of an obscure documentary, such that it almost constitutes editorial subterfuge. It is after all, rare in projects monitored by studios these days to witness such a pure, beautiful accident as the rest of the film distils itself through a series of preset studio-templates: two car chases that both result in totaled cars; a thrilling prison break; titanium-laced corporation offices that are populated by evil corporate honchos who wear clean, ironed suits and speak in a clean, laboured diction while displaying an air of general distinction.
Our players: a woman with an absent father and her cold, ruthless male companion who will help her expand her consciousness. Anyway, it’s no secret that the film is based on an incredibly successful videogame franchise of the same name. As is the general anxiety of these films, the evil corporation (Hollywood prop-name: the Syndicate) are woefully close to getting their hands on a secret formula that will help them develop an army of rogue agents, while our protagonists (the girl’s father channels Zizek and is the only scientist who knows the formula) are tasked with the mission to intervene, just in time.
One suspects that it may be a classic case of a talented director burdened with material that does not merit his talent, but what evidence does one have to posit such a case? The opening scene itself. Agent 47 visits an office, extracts a secret and causes a huge explosion in the control room. This causes the alarms to go off and, as a result, the security guards to gather; what follows is a series of casual murders that are designed with immense authority over choreography, cutting, rhythm, alternating pulses of light and darkness that declares an agenda that the film, nonetheless, will quickly abandon: to make a big show out of the hitman’s body (a character even says, “look how he walks, how he looks, how he wears his clothes”). It is an accomplishment that doesn’t belong to the rest of the film, which is shot mostly in traditional schemes of lazy, handheld master-shots punctuated by giant-ass close-ups.
There are videogame consoles, display screens, speedometers, volume bars — a techno-thriller. At some level, Hollywood’s obsession with ideas of cloning, volume, loss of emotional faculty, death and therefore transcendence means that almost all the films it produces are science-fiction. They even locate them in universes that resemble the insides of a shipyard crate which is made accessible through an emotional trope: daddy-issue. Perhaps these films will gain significantly if this pretense is dropped altogether.
The writer is programmer, Lightcube Film Society