When I travelled to Florida recently, the long trip gave me time to read a number of books and to watch a number of movies. Today I'll talk about a couple of the films I watched, two thrillers that made for good aeroplane entertainment.
Liam Neeson is an actor I really like; his combination of crumpled charm and ordinary man turned tough guy heroics isn't easy to resist even if his performances follow a very similar pattern. In The Commuter, he plays a decent family man down on his luck, an ex-cop who is sacked from his job through no fault of his own. As always in films and television, the dismissal is conducted in an off-the-cuff manner that (after my years as an employment lawyer) I find risibly crude and implausible because it's an invitation to litigation that no boss in his right mind would risk. But since it's not a story about employment law, perhaps this is nothing to worry about unduly.
On the train back home, Neeson is approached by a pleasant, mysterious woman, who offers him $100,000 dollars to undertake an apparently simple task. Needless to say, there's a catch...before long, he's involved in a frantic race against time to find which of his fellow passengers is a mysterious character called Prynne, and to figure out why it matters. Yes, it's hokum, but it makes for enjoyable and exciting viewing.
The Negotiator, also known as Beirut, features another class act, Jon Hamm, in the lead role. He plays Mason Skiles, a top diplomat in the Lebanon whose life is wrecked in 1972, when his wife is killed. He returns to the US, and becomes a workplace negotiator before being summoned back to Beirut when his old friend Cal is kidnapped by terrorists.
The screenplay is written by Tony Gilroy, responsible for the Bourne movies, and it's quite accomplished, but it seemed to me that Gilroy was trying to achieve something more than an action thriller, and I'm not quite sure he managed it. Hamm's relationship with Rosamund Pike, one of the kidnap negotiation team, for instance, is rather inadequately developed, while the eternally elaborate politics of the Middle East are tackled in a serious way, but without casting any real light. John Le Carre would, I think, have made more of the material. So what we are left with is an action movie, and it's a perfectly good one, hardly memorable, but a very good way to spend time on a long flight.