By: Nick van Dinther

Unlocked spends a lot of time setting up the storyline for the rest of the film.  The only problem is that by the time it’s done, you don’t really care much anymore.

The film follows an ex-CIA operative (Noomi Rapace) who is called back into action when a biological terror attack threatens the safety of the people of London.  Using her expertise in interrogation, she helps the CIA uncover vital information only to find out she may not have been helping the people she thought she was.

If this synopsis sounds familiar, it’s because there is nothing particularly new or special about Unlocked.  It’s just a loose interpretation of the Bourne series with a female lead, and that’s not a big enough selling point for a film these days.  It’s great to see women in the industry given the chance to stand alone, but you’ve got to give them good material to work with on top of that.  We’ve seen many examples of movies this year who gave us new ideas and new stories (Wonder WomanAtomic Blonde), and that’s where Unlocked falls short.

Rapace does her best with what she is given, but she falls victim to the same crime most of her fellow castmates seem to – she takes herself too seriously.  There are moments in this film that could really use some heart and levity, and they turn into missed opportunities for her character.  However, even though the action scenes are nothing to write home about, these beats are when she seems to really hit her stride.  This is far from a perfect leading performance, but Unlocked makes it clear that Rapace has what it takes to become a true female action star in the future.

When it comes to the rest of the cast, there is no shortage of star power.  Michael Douglas, Toni Collette and John Malkovich play members of the CIA and aside from a few scene stealers from Malkovich, they provide steady yet unremarkable performances.  Orlando Bloom rounds out the top-billed names, yet his character is probably the biggest disappointment.  He is supposed to play a charming guy with a bit of an edge, and he just comes off as a poor man’s Colin Farrell.  One of the big issues Bloom’s character faces (in fact, most of them face) is that no one is particularly likeable, and this makes it hard to be sympathetic towards them.  This is not true for everyone though, as relative unknown Tosin Cole brings all the things the rest of the cast is missing: a sense of humour, likeability, and a level of care we don’t find anywhere else.  Unlocked needed more Tosin Cole.

Overall, this is pedestrian fare with a story that doesn’t flow well.  The narrative moves slowly off the top, and becomes quite predictable when it builds momentum.  Even when it does try to add a twist, the audience doesn’t fall for it because everyone on screen is untrustworthy.  The dialogue is paint-by-numbers, and the action scenes are very lacklustre sequences that don’t measure up to the film’s expectations.  Director Michael Apted (The World Is Not Enough) could’ve been innovative with the film’s action, but he doesn’t bother.  Just another series of missed opportunities, which is actually the best way to explain Unlocked.

Movie goers need to be invested in what happens to the characters, and they need to be on the edge of your seat.  Unlocked does none of that.  If the production spent less money on its cast and focused on tidying Peter O’Brien’s script and motivating Apted, then maybe Unlocked could’ve been something special.


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Nick van Dinther: @NickVanDinther

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