Trigger Warning: This review discusses sexual assault and violent crime.
Matthew Reilly’s feature directing debut is a contained action thriller right out of 20th Century Fox’s John McTiernan playbook with Netflix release, Interceptor. It’s not entirely paint-by-numbers, but it’s a joyride when the action kicks in, and with leading lady Elsa Pataky at the forefront for her own streaming feature equal to that of Extraction star, husband and exec producer Chris Hemsworth.
Army Captain J.J. Collins (Pataky) is newly arrived at a base in the middle of the Pacific Ocean titled SBX-1, one of two top-secret locations for America’s Interceptors – armed response outposts established to deter nuclear threats from Russia. At this point, one other Interceptor in Alaska has already been seized by an unknown Russian enemy, and with the outpost on high-alert, it’s already too late as Collins soon discovers terrorists led by former U.S. soldier-turned-traitor Alexander Kessel have already infiltrated the outpost. Trapped and with just minutes to go until Kessel can break into the main room to fully seize SBX-1 and launch as many as 16 nuclear missles out of Russia and into the U.S., it’s up to Collins to strategize around Kessel and the base’s limited means of defense in order to prevent Armageddon.
Reilly also penned the pic with Stuart Beattie who is credited on a number of Pirates Of The Caribbean installments, in addition to writing Kriv Stender’s 2019 release out of Saban Films, Danger Close, which also starred Luke Bracey and Aaron Glenane. Both actors play as antagonists to Pataky in a story that uses a hard look at the treatment of women in the military, as a vessel to construct almost exactly the kind of psychotic villain you would expect, set against extraordinary circumstances for our hero in her quest to save the day.
When we first meet Collins, she’s already en route to SBX-1, and just minutes later is reminded of exactly why it is she didn’t want to be there. The film goes well into Collins’ history throughout the film in moments of flashbacks, illustrating her turmoil as a female member of the armed forces, confronted with unwanted sexual advances by a respected military General, and the vicious backlash from fellow soldiers ranging from harrassing e-mails and use of a sexy charity photo she once took, to having her home vandalized with graffiti marking her as a “Bounty Hunt”.
These are moments that all come back to haunt Collins as she comes face-to-face in a war of wits with Kessel, synthesizing every thought, and meeting his challenges head on from one attempt on her life to another. As the film later foretells, these are nothing compared to the worst-case scenario she faces further on in a showdown with the deranged Kessel who threatens her father, and with the world, and the White House with Madam President Wallace (Zoe Carides) and her counsel watching through Kessel’s hacked live streaming channels.
From start to finish, Interceptor never loses its throwback aesthetic, from Michael Lira’s score, to Pataky’s scene-stealing delivery, including one line where she sets one henchman straight about how to address a woman before squarely headbutting him. There’s also a moment where she’s held captive and she uses a sports reference before the scene escalates, which I thought was pretty cool, and those are just a few of the film’s one-liner high points.
One other character that gets some credit is that of Shah (Mayen Mehta), a Corporal who works as an analyst on the Interceptor base. He’s the kind of character you would expect to pull a Hudson, but thankfully he doesn’t go too hard, and after a great deal of time coming off as the film’s weakest link, his character is eventually done some justice along the way. And, while Bracey is no Hans Gruber, he plays the villain part well enough to warrant getting behind Pataky who, by the film’s third act, is moving remarkably faster than she should be with one arm against a ticking clock, and forced to find her way around a gargantuan structure with deadly hurdles that would almost normally be a cakewalk to the average Ninja Warrior contestant. The only other setback is the shots we see of Times Square where we see the masses catching on to Kessel’s livestream on the jumbotrons. Those scenes pale in comparison to another scene at an electronics store in Los Angeles where a rather girthy TV salesman can be seen stanning Collins, which doesn’t really exude the kind of humor it intends.
Of course, you’re welcome to suspend disbelief. It’s totally fine to so, if only to enjoy what the film offers with a lead in Pataky that guarantees action fans another formidable hard-hitting name in the genre to share space in the fandom chatter following the impression she’s left in a few of the Fast & Furious films thusfar. She carries the action nicely between sequences by action consultant Sam Hargrave (Extraction, Wolf Warrior 2), Chris Weir (Upgrade, The Invisible Man) and fight coordinator Tim Wong (Shadow In The Cloud, The Legend Of Baron To’a) who jumps in as one of our villain’s hired goons.
Interceptor isn’t anything some of us haven’t seen already, but it does terrific in hailing action fans with another thriller that hits enough of the right notes to get the job done, including a few cameos that action and comic book movie fans should recognize. Reilly may be “confused” as to why the film managed to hit number one on Netflix since releasing last week, but the numbers don’t lie, and with sequel prospects seemingly on the horizon, clearly he’s done something right.
Lead pic: Brooke Rushton