Tuesday, 12 February 2013

No.69 : The Expatriate

The Expatriate at the IMDb

Aaron Eckhart takes the title role in this by the numbers Euro-Thriller.

He plays Ben, a single Dad working in Brussels who is employed as a security tester. He shows his bosses ways to disable various locks which is immediately relevant as we’ve already witnessed a robbery during which a safety deposit box, which has just the kind of lock he’s been working on, gets nicked.

We see he has a mouthy daughter but he a good man, evidenced by the fact that he buys the black security guard at his office a coffee. His seemingly humdrum life starts to dismantle when he questions whether his company owns the patents of the locks he is breaking.

When he arrives the next day his office has disappeared in a scene reminiscent of ‘Moonraker’, ‘Capricorn One’ and virtually every ‘paranoia’ thriller you could mention. It gets worse when he discovers his cash, emails and employment history has been scrubbed. Fortunately his annoying daughter’s peanut allergy necessitates a visit to the E.R. which saves him from meeting the hit men who have dispatched his co-workers.

Aaron goes on the run with his daughter in tow and after a low rent car smash he realises that he can trust no one. Slowly the pair start to piece together the conspiracy which predictably involves Black-Ops C.I.A. agents and an evil corporation that sounds like ‘Haliburton’ which is managed by a Rupert Murdoch look-alike.

As you’d expect there are spooks on every corner and the daughter realises that dad didn’t get those face kicking and bomb making skills by doing his alleged dull government job. After plenty of running around Belgium the secret documents that may save the day are secured but the daughter held is hostage - can Aaron get the girl back and sort out the bad guys?

I didn’t read any reviews or indeed had heard of this film before my viewing but I’m sure every one starts with ‘Bourne knockoff’. It’s a distinction hard to avoid seeing as it basically copies every facet of that franchise. In both we have an unsettling conspiracy with ‘the trust no one’ vibe throughout - even the nice coffee liking security man is in on it! We also have a ‘Treadstone’ -esque black ops group with dozens of cannon fodder grunts. Where Bourne has amnesia we have the device of the tag along daughter to reveal Aaron’s talents and we also have the character of the girl on the bad guys’ side who helps out too.

If you’d seen the film in isolation you’d probably quite like it ;but the usually winning Eckhart appears to have left his charisma behind at customs. The action is OK but the genre’s cuts heavy approach is present and correct in its often confusing jerky motion. The budget must have been small however, with not much expense evident when the baddie’s car breaks a tinfoil barrier before slowly rolling down a hill .

The daughter was largely used as a means of peril and explanation - “Do you want to know what daddy did in the C.I.A.?” Unsurprisingly she saves the day several times reminding me of the niece out of ‘Inspector Gadget’ in the annoying stakes.

The film gets a bit unnecessarily complex in the middle and it seems like they are trying to make a dull script a bit more sophisticated by adding layers to the puzzle. If you can get over that and just wait out the predictable plot points you’ll have an average slice of workmanlike spy fodder that passes the time, leaving nothing memorable in its wake..

THE Tag Line : Jason, are you using that script?  61%

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