Unlocked is something of an enigma to review. Marketed as a psychological interrogation thriller, it’s actually more a balls-to-the-wall modern take on the espionage genre. Noomi Rapace stars as Alice Racine - a female counterpoint to the Jason Bourne of the cinematic universe. Alice is a French agent who is forced to come out of a self-imposed exile to work as an interrogator for the CIA. The object of her interrogation is a messenger/courier (Akshay Kumar) sent by an Iman to make contact with a deeply unsavory character. The courier carries part of a message which will either lead to an all-out biological terrorist attack, or will stop it before it has the chance to begin. As Alice uses her skills and cunning to get to the truth she soon discovers that not all is as it seems and that the very people she is working for may well be the real threat. Not knowing where to turn or who to trust she goes on a heart-pounding mission through the streets of London to try to prevent the imminent deaths of innocent citizens.
Rapace is a great leading lady and I believed every second of her ass-kicking, her quick-thinking and her emotional intelligence. In fact, the whole cast puts in an extremely solid performance. Looking for answers Alice turns to Toni Collette who is channelling both Judi Dench’s M and Annie Lennox as the head of MI5. She’s also a total bad ass with gunplay as we find out later in the film. Michael Douglas is in his element as Alice’s CIA mentor who has been with her since she was a lowly street rat. John Malkovich puts in a typically Malkovich performance as head of the CIA, all bulging eyes and strange expressions. Newcomer Akshay Kumar is believable in his brief screen time as the courier caught in the middle of all this. Alas, there’s always a squeaky wheel or wobbly leg in most films. In Unlocked it comes in the form of Orlando Bloom. Bloom’s never been an actor, let’s face it. Rather he’s been a mannequin programmed to say a few lines and stand there as eye candy. Well, unfortunately this time he really does try to act. But it looks like Johnny Depp taught him how to talk like a Londoner and his cockney is so awkward it hurts to watch. His character is a robber who just happens to be in the wrong place at the right time. Least said about him the better.
It’s not a perfect film by a long shot. Look too deep into the complex and tangled web of conspiracies it tries to weave and you’ll find that certain things just don’t add up. But that’s kind of fine, because it very much knows that it’s more pulpy than poignant in its storytelling. As long as good triumphs over bad that’s all that counts in these sorts of films- right? Well, there’s also a certain complexity to that which will divide the audience. There are one or two moments when Alice’s actions might be considered crossing a line that the more liberal, left-thinking members of the audience might take issue with. Not least the final scene, where a choice she makes might work narratively but definitely would come under intense criticism in the real world. But look – the film is entertaining and it moves along at a great pace. There’s no chance to stop and take a breather and that’s why it doesn’t really matter that it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny – you simply don’t have time to scrutinise while watching.
The pieces of the jigsaw are held back until exactly the right moment they need to be placed into position. With each piece of the puzzle laid down the plot seduced me and I was definitely blindsided by a couple of twists and turns. Just goes to show that even though we think we know it all when it comes to these sorts of movies there are still some nice surprises to be had. The nicest surprise and the main point to this films credit is its focus on a strong and independent female lead. There are no romantic interests attached and everything she does comes from a personal drive within. It would have been nice to have had a few more scenes between Rapace and Collette but what we do have stands on its own two feet. It’s not going to win any awards but I would definitely watch this again on its DVD/Blu-ray release. I just wonder if it would hold up on a second viewing with all the twists and turns already known to me.