IANS Review: ‘The Contractor’: Refreshingly sensitive and balanced, action-thriller
Los Angeles : ‘The Contactor’ is a well-paced, unfussy action-thriller. Chris Pine plays a former Special Forces Sergent James Harper recovering from a knee injury while serving his time in the US Army in Afghanistan and Iraq. Despite being honourably discharged, he feels betrayed by his government because a surprise blood test revealed the presence of self-administered drugs, which he took to suppress his knee pain, resulting in the stripping of his pension. As he struggles to find ways to support his wife and young son, assistance comes in the form of his friend and former superior, Mike (Ben Foster), who tells him about a private company “offering real money” that will hire them for their specialised skills. Mike also assures him that the missions are nothing too dangerous. James reluctantly accepts the offer. James’ new boss is the heavily tattooed Rusty Jennings (Kiefer Sutherland), who sends him on a covert mission to Berlin, where he is assigned to take out the virologist (Fares Fares) who may be working with Al-Qaeda. Soon, the plot switches gears when James and Mike realise that their mission has been compromised.
We are then plunged into the intrigue and double-crosses that occur in Berlin. After which, James must fend for himself – not sure whom to trust as shadowy forces descend upon him while he tries to navigate a safe passage back to Pine delivers a convincing performance as he carries the burden of his character’s past on the screen. Despite the overall narrative falling shot on many levels, his journey as James Harper remains a largely compelling one. Ben Foster as Mike is another standout in the film. He shares brilliant on-screen chemistry with Pine, and their low-key rapport, selling a brotherly trust and banter, is especially affecting in the early sequences as their characters struggle with transitioning to civilian life. Director Tarik Saleh’s handling of the film is refreshingly sensitive. Instead of jumping straight into the action and explosions as some military thrillers tend to do, he spends a considerable amount of time setting the backdrop of the drama before a single bullet is fired. The opening scenes introduce us to James’ family; his wife Brianne (Gillian Jacobs), and their son Jack (Sander Thomas), showing a loving family whose happy lifestyle is being threatened by the discharge of James’ military service. The time it takes at the beginning, before the action sequences begin, lays the foundation of the story, and the stakes, which offer depth to the characters, in whom you are emotionally invested. Overall, genre fans in particular, those who prefer action sequences consisting of close-quarters combat and tense shootouts, need not worry as ‘The Contactor’ eventually has plenty of them.
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