Arts

Unlocked a humdrum spy caper that fails to grab audience attention

Swedish actress Noomi Rapace does sterling work but can't quite salvage Unlocked

REAL-life terror plots and heightened security in London provide an unsettling jolt of adrenaline to director Michael Apted's flat-footed espionage thriller, which charts a race against time to avert a biological weapon attack on the city.

Scripted at a pedestrian pace by Peter O'Brien, Unlocked squanders an Oscar-calibre cast including Michael Douglas, John Malkovich and Toni Collette, and provides talented Swedish actress Noomi Rapace with another thankless lead role that pales next to her scintillating turn as avenging angel Lisbeth Salander in the original The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and its sequels.

Those mesmerising performances showcased an actor with the rare ability to plumb the darkest depths of a tortured character's soul. Here, Rapace merely sprints, shoots, takes calls on her mobile 'phone with a furrowed brow, and keeps a straight face when one of her co-stars almost ruins a stakeout at a Moroccan restaurant by gushing, "I love a tagine!"

An electronic timer, ticking down to doomsday, should provide Apted's picture with sufficient dramatic tension to overcome sloppy plotting including one brief scene that wouldn't logically happen as portrayed on screen and therefore announces itself as an act of deception on the part of screenwriter O'Brien.

Skilled CIA interrogator Alice Racine (Rapace) retired from active duty after she failed to break down a suspect in time to avert carnage on the boulevards of Paris. Four years later, she is a caseworker in London, concerned with benefits not bombs.

Unexpectedly, Bob Hunter (Malkovich), the CIA's Director of European Operations, ushers Alice back into action under her old handler, Eric Lasch (Douglas), in order to interrogate a young man called Lateef (Aymen Hamdouchi), who is believed to be a courier for Imam Yazid Khaleel (Makram Khoury).

Authorities fear Lateef has been given a coded message that will trigger the release of a deadly virus on an American target in the UK.

"Let the past go or it's going to get in the way when it counts," Eric warns his protegee as she atones for mistakes in Paris by breaking Lateef's resolve.

In the process of carrying out her duties, Alice stumbles upon a deadly conspiracy that exposes moles in the CIA's covert operations. Unsure who to trust, Alice turns to ballsy MI5 agent Emily Knowles (Collette), Iraq war veteran Jack Alcott (Orlando Bloom) and a local lad called Amjad (Tosin Cole) to unmask the traitors.

Unlocked is a humdrum spy caper that polishes mediocre material to a dull sheen thanks to the sterling work of Rapace and co, including Collette rocking a blond crop. Bloom delivers a wooden performance and an accent that he would probably rather forget.

Action sequences are competent, but like everything else in Apted's picture, fail to get our hearts or minds racing.

UNLOCKED (15, 98 mins) Thriller/Action. Noomi Rapace, Orlando Bloom, Michael Douglas, John Malkovich, Toni Collette, Aymen Hamdouchi, Makram Khoury. Director: Michael Apted

RATING: 4/10

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