Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.
Actor Dominic Cooper’s feasibility as an action star is something I wouldn’t have suspected, as unassuming as he is. Then again, recent years have shown that filmmakers can make anyone an action star and the outcome depends on how the filmmaker in question applies the necessary methods for doing so. Some are pretty lackluster in this effort while others do manage to keep things well knit and lensed in the process and this, on top of of a tight script, good drama and pacing can certainly do a film justice.
Stratton achieves this, albeit measuring about as far in its spectacle as you would presume to believe a limited theatrical and VoD run would allow. The bright side is that it largely maintains itself for worthy viewing with action fans, providing an otherwise refreshing and watchable espionage thriller from top to bottom. Taken from the published work of pennamed author Duncan Falconer, Cooper plays Stratton, a member of the British SBS who is forced to come to terms with a new partner after a botched operation in Iran. Stark revelations arise as Stratton and his team learn of the emergence of a former FSB operative-cum-terrorist thought to be dead, an airborne pathogen in his possession along with several drones, and a traitor in their midst working both sides.
Cooper surprisingly holds up very well in the title role, offering a flexibly stern and forthright personality to the character. His unassuming build lends an enriching take on action movie hero stereotypes – something slightly different from today’s bulked up Man Of Steel, the prolific Henry Cavill who left the film just several days before cameras were set to roll in 2015. The air of hero sympathy the film attempts to harness isn’t a wasted effort as we meet the roles of Marty, played by Tyler Hoechlin, and actor Austin Stowell’s Hank whose intentions almost instantly are the center of Stratton’s apprehension.
Gemma Chan provides one of the strongest performances of the film as team member, Aggy, whose chemistry with Stratton is approached with tact and poise in the course of the neccessary move for an action thriller that’s almost always moving. The crux of the story is provided by Thomas Kretschmann, no stranger to villainous or mysterious roles an accordingly, never disappoints. The action is well balanced, heavy on gun battles, explosions and vehicular demolition, with moments added in between that add further to the danger and suspense. Save for a knife fight in the third act, the editing is heavy with the action scenes, but made substantive with the aid of stable cinematography that won’t agitate viewers.
Stratton is no Bourne in terms of audience and appeal, and that’s partly and probably a good thing in some ways. West doesn’t cock up what works in an action film, thus making him as notable as he’s grown over the years having directed hits like signature 90s actioner, Con Air, and recent thrillers such as Wild Card and The Expendables 2.
Come to think of it, he probably would have done a much better job with 2016’s Jason Bourne, which, under Greengrass, nauseated me. With West’s Stratton and Dominic proving a worthy substitute for Cavill, while I’m neither here nor there on a sequel, I wouldn’t protest one, and the appeal is definitely there for one, methinks.