Film Review: The Numbers Station

The Numbers Station
The Numbers Station has had such low visibility, I’m surprised it got made at all! Having to buy the DVD off Amazon wasn’t a good sign but undeterred I watched it with an open mind.

I found that it was bit like a low budget spy thriller. A James Bond film without the pizzazz, music or glamour. The thing that does set this apart is the dynamics between the two leads John Cusack and Malin Akerman.

John Cusack plays CIA black ops agent Emerson Kent. After a job goes wrong, he must prove his worth and is sent to guard a lady named Katherine (Akerman). He must protect her at all costs. The CIA use a numbers station to send and receive encrypted messages. But the station is already under attack and saving Katherine may not be possible!

Now this drama wasn’t so much by the book, it WAS the book. Gunshots, awful bosses, exploding cars and mindless violence were executed matter of factly. Katherine’s colleagues were attacked before she arrived and you saw their fate through flashbacks when she played the audio tapes.

This was where the film lost a lot of credibility. Would the CIA really employ three people to look after such a covert station? All of them afraid to use guns and any of the defences? Plus the old – ‘I’ll open the door to see what’s going on!’

The villains were cardboard, a big bad boss with huge bodyguards ready to die for him. So much time was spent at the bunker – I was glad when it finally moved along. Perhaps this was a budget constraint? But the chemistry between the leads made the time passable.

Cusack played the troubled agent who has a conscience well and you could see him struggling with some of the decisions he had to make. The dreams where he shoots Katherine was a little bizarre and frankly unnecessary so I’m assuming this was a plot filler? It could’ve been a shock tactic but it just confused things for me.

One minute he’s now a world class doctor and able to operate on her then he’s dreaming of shooting her???

Kent’s boss is a little too trigger happy and there’s no time spent in exploring why he was so happy to have everyone die and humans nothing more than loose ends to tidy up. There was a good story here and it was missed. What would make someone so cold?

Another problem was the darn bunker door! For a secret bunker, the front door was like a revolving door. In, out, in, out. All the cast appeared to be in nearly every part – upstairs, downstairs. Injured people able to get to the basement and shoot. There was a lot of weird action going on.

But the ending was good and frankly I’ve seen worse movies recently. I think a rework of the script is in order, a touch of glamour and humour and that might propel this movie higher and get accepted by bigger cinemas.

I’m giving 7/10, a satisfactory outing but hardly Oscar material.

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Trailer reproduced from eonebenelux

Film Review: The Paperboy

the-paperboyAfter its recent slating at the Cannes Film Festival, with audiences mooing (yes, mooing!) after seeing the initial screening, I went in to The Paperboy with a lot of trepidation. Indeed, with a cast that includes Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, and the consistently terrible Matthew McConaughey, there was nothing more than the appeal of seeing a slummed-down John Cusack that drew me in. It seemed a worthy cause to offer this film a chance, but one that, within the first five minutes was instantly regrettable.

We are sent into the world of the American Deep South during the 1970’s, where skinning alligators and casual racism are the locals’ pastimes, and the sweltering heat causes everyone to become scantily clad. When hotshot reporter Ward Jansen (McConaughey) comes back to town, trying to free the potentially innocent Hayley Van Wetter (John Cusack) from death-row, we begin to see the dangerous corruption the encompasses a criminal charge of this nature. Ward enlists the help of his younger brother Jack (Efron), the sexually-charged Charlotte Bless (Kidman), who Jack immediately falls in love with, and his writing partner Yardley (David Oyelowo) a black Londoner, in order to crack the case open. However, no sooner have they started their work than do things start to turn sour, as friends begin double-crossing one another, love interests cloud motivations, and scrupulous locals try to hinder any progression with the case.

The Paperboy had every potential to become a nice mix of A Time To Kill and To Kill A Mockingbird, with the race and class undertones that were there to access, and it could have had as much a punch as In The Heat Of The Night with its subject matter. However, all of the action, conflict and drama of the overriding prison sentence gets lost, as instead we focus on the strange twisted relationship that develops between Jack and Charlotte. And therein lies the problem that writer-director Lee Daniels (Precious) has created for himself – the tone of the film is far too confusing. It isn’t quite about race, the law, or even the newspaper industry, and therefore loses its poignancy, and the ensuing relationship is so farfetched that it completely loses its realism. The story is pointless, the ending is absurd, and halfway through you just want the barrage of absurdity to end.

At the end of the day, this film will only be remembered simply for its shock factor. With scenes including some post-jellyfish-sting-urination, non-contact orgasms, and an extremely surreal case gay bashing, there are several key talking points, all of which would make you feel very dirty for watching them. However, they are included for all of the wrong reasons, and therefore become cheap tricks to bring in curious audiences.

Overall, The Paperboy had a lot of potential. It could have been an emotional, tense journey for all those involved. Instead, it is an over-long piece of drivel where, for once, McConaughey puts out the best acting performance. If you have any sense, you will stay very far away.

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Video reproduced from YouTube / LionsgateFilmsUK