Unlocked (2017)

  • Time: 98 min
  • Genre: Action | Drama | Mystery
  • Director: Michael Apted
  • Cast: Noomi Rapace, Orlando Bloom, Toni Collette, Michael Douglas, John Malkovich


A CIA interrogator is lured into a ruse that puts London at risk of a biological attack.


  • Recently there was not altogether improbable chatter positing Charlize Theron as a female James Bond. Partly this was due to her role as a Cold War agent in Atomic Blonde but, with the undisputed success of Wonder Woman, surely a female spy or action franchise isn’t too far in the offing. If Wonder Woman and Atomic Blonde are variably solid examples that women can be equally kickass, then the Noomi Rapace-led Unlocked proves that female-driven action films can be as bland and generic as their male-dominated counterparts.

    Rapace is CIA operative Alice Racine who, after failing to prevent a terrorist attack in Paris years earlier, has taken herself out of the field. There are broad sketches to her background – a series of foster homes, a rebellious nature that she’s managed to funnel into hunting down bad guys – but none of these details convince as much as the casting of the original girl with the dragon tattoo herself. Rapace can be an arresting performer given the right part but, excepting her recent turn as seven sisters in What Happened to Monday, her time in Hollywood has not served her well. One can believe that she possesses the intelligence and kickass moves to be an undercover agent, but Unlocked seems intent on proving the opposite.

    Alice is currently deep undercover as a social worker to suss out potential terrorist cells in London. When CIA Langley bureau chief Bob Hunter (John Malkovich) gets wind of an imminent biological attack in London, he assigns the Alice to interrogate a captured courier to find out the recognition protocol in order to track down the mastermind behind the plot. Alice, still guilt-ridden from the Paris attack, is reluctant but her American handler Eric Lasch (Michael Douglas) reminds her that the agency needs her skill set, they need her out of the front lines, and she needs to let the past go before it gets in the way. Once she agrees to the interrogation, what follows is a game of double and triple crosses with Alice racing against the clock to foil a potential massacre whilst trying to figure out who she can and can’t trust.

    Director Michael Apted keeps things moving along, staging proficient action scenes such as Alice warding off double agents in the confines of a makeshift interrogation room. Rapace does what she can but, for the lead in what could have been a potential franchise, she’s easily overshadowed by her starrier co-stars. Neither Douglas nor Malkovich seem to be exerting themselves – they’re both clearly slumming, but their personas go a long way in material such as this. Toni Collette as Alice’s MI5 contact makes a far stronger case for fronting the film – her character is far more thinly drawn than Rapace’s, yet she somehow creates a far stronger, more impressionable character than Rapace does. Orlando Bloom shows up sporting a man bun, tattoos, and a dodgy Cockney accent as a thief who insists on aiding Alice. “I’m useful, and I like trouble,” he tells her, adding that his combat training may also come in handy. It’s somewhat admirable that Bloom is trying something different at this stage in his career, but he is wholly unconvincing though he at least seems to be relishing the chance to not be an elf amongst hobbits or third fiddle to Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

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  • “Send a car for my wife and flowers. And by flowers, I mean whatever it takes to keep me off the couch tonight.”

    Take any “Jason Bourne” episode, mix it with lets say a “Mission Impossible” or recently “Stratton” and add a little bit of humor. As a result you’ll get something similar as “Unlocked”. So, it isn’t exactly original. It’s entertaining, but it’s also an inextricable tangle of intrigues. At one point you’re wondering who can be trusted and who can’t be. The film fits in perfectly with today’s news. Every few months there’s a terrorist attack by some extremist organization in Europe. I just hope this film won’t cause some crack-brained organizations to get bad ideas.

    Maybe it’s me, but at times I didn’t have a clue what the people concerned were talking about. Apparently, your level of intelligence should be very high to be able to function in the world of intelligence services as a secret agent. Sometimes conclusions are drawn and decisions are made at such a scary rate. The fight against terrorism is a difficult task for a reason. Is it possible that the vast majority of employees can’t even follow the reasoning of their superior?

    Noomi Rapace, who impressed me more in “Child 44” than in “Prometheus”, is playing the experienced agent Alice Racine, who has a conscience problem after a terrorist attack in Paris. Due to an enormous guilt-feeling she leaves her job at MI5. And now she works for a social service which she uses as a cover to signal suspicious developments to MI5. Until she’s summoned one day to question a terrorist suspect to get information about a planned attack. But soon, she realizes she got caught up in a hornet’s nest where nobody can be trusted and with an impossible task waiting for her. On the one hand, she has to make sure she stays out of the hands of another organization with an entirely different agenda. And on the other hand, it’s a race against the clock to make sure London won’t suffer a chemical attack. Yes, it isn’t boring for Alice.

    The story on its own is actually a mess and sometimes quite difficult to follow. If you are a spy-thriller enthusiast and you have already seen a lot of movies from this genre, you won’t find novelties that’ll overwhelm you. The whole movie is a series of chases, short-lived but energetic action scenes and high-tech espionage behind the scenes. But, above all, the huge amount of plot turns will make it rather laughable than surprising. I would not even have been surprised if at the end the imam was an accomplice of some kind of candid camera program who announces that it was all just a joke. That’s the level I’m talking about.

    What else is there to admire? The performances of acclaimed famous film stars? The Swedish Noomi Rapace is perfect for this part as the female Jason Bourne. An intelligent, cold-blooded person who knows how to handle herself in this hard-core spy world. They were even able to convince Michael Douglas to play a small but not so insignificant role. The least impressive role was given to Orlando Bloom, who tries to bring some humor into the film with his heavy English accent and attitude. However, it is John Malkovich who steals the show as CIA chief Bob Hunter. His facial expression, that seemingly nonchalant smile and a moment of uncontrolled behavior during a video conference. A clear proof that one needs to be a bit insane to work for the intelligence service. But despite the excellent acting and the stars who appear on the screen, this movie can’t avoid to get the label “mediocrity”. It’s just another spy thriller which is momentary entertaining but eventually will be forgotten.

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  • “Unlocked” offers a Byzantine plot filled with unexpected twists, a talented cast and decent production values. Many of the plot devices are familiar tropes, but some seem fresh, including a sequence involving a motorcycle and an early reversal of fortune. The story is engaging, but never quite edge-of-your-seat enthralling. At the end, it seems a worthwhile experience, but devoid of anything really fresh.

    Spy films don’t mix well with politically liberal ideals. The typical spy film entails extrajudicial executions, capital punishment, enhanced interrogation, kidnappings, violation of treaties, immigrants engaged in spy cells, profiling and all manner of activities that outrage liberals. This film seems to attempt to defer or pander to liberal sensitivities, while pursuing a plot that requires a right-wing mindset. The results often seem a bit awkward. Muslim immigrants have an elaborate network of sleeper cells, but some of the Muslims are good people who object to their religion of peace being subverted by extremists. Most immigrants are hard-working, but need help acclimating to local customs. Women are just as capable, or more so, as intelligence officers. They are dedicated, less likely to betray their country and capable of going head-to-head in unarmed combat against two opponents who each outweigh them by half. The real villains aren’t the peace- loving Muslms, but the hard line extremists in our own governments who manipulate our enemies for political gain. At several points in the film, it feels as if the filmmakers are pausing the action to present homework assignments from a community college course in civics.

    The script is not entirely satisfying dramatically. In addition to distracting political subtext, too many characters know too much about future events. The protagonist doesn’t seem to need to work very hard to uncover things. There are a lot of coincidences. The protagonist more often seems to be knocked about by events, rather than driving them. There are too many remorseless murderers willing to employ weapons of mass destruction for a price. At least three significant characters may have died, but we’re not entirely certain.

    Overall, it’s an engaging movie that might have been better if it invested less effort in trying to be politically correct.

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