Film Review – Interceptor
Interceptor (2022) is one of those throwback action pictures where a lone hero must take down an entire platoon of terrorists. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, these were common fare, from Under Siege (1992), Executive Decision (1996), Air Force One (1997) and of course Die Hard (1988), which this film lifts the most from. One can tell that director Matthew Reilly (who also cowrote the screenplay with Stuart Beattie) is a fan of the genre, perhaps to a fault. The execution is almost too straight forward, adhering a little too closely to the blueprint of the past. The result is something that – while earnest – takes itself so seriously that it comes off as funny.
The title is a reference to secret military bases meant to defend the U.S. from nuclear attack. It’s explained that if a foreign enemy were to launch nuclear missiles, these “interceptor” bases would only have a few minutes to launch countermeasures and knock them out of the sky. We learn that there are only two locations defending the western coast. Obviously, if anything were to happen – say a terrorist attack – that would leave the country in a precarious position. And wouldn’t you know it: that’s exactly what happens. Mercenaries enact a coordinated effort to take both bases down. The central action takes place in an undisclosed location in the Pacific Ocean.
What the terrorists didn’t plan for was a kickass protagonist willing to go to any lengths to stop them. Elsa Pataky plays Captain J.J. Collins, a no-nonsense officer who has received a hefty amount of scorn after reporting a senior officer for sexual assault. Being assigned to the outpost is the government’s way of keeping her out sight and out of mind. Unfortunately, the plan backfires as soon as Collins settles down, as a group of armed thugs – led by a wormy man named Kessel (Luke Bracey) – initiate their attack. The quick-thinking Collins barricades herself in the command center with Corporal Shah (Mayen Mehta). The command center is the only place where Kessel and his minions can override the system and shut the base down. The main point of tension involves Collins and Shah waiting for back up to arrive while Kessel and his team try to break into the room.
While Interceptor is mainly focused on action, much of the narrative features Collins and Kessel bantering through an intercom system. This back and forth will undoubtably remind viewers of the chit chat between John McClane (Bruce Willis) and Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) in the aforementioned Die Hard. The dialogue is not nearly as interesting, being mostly relegated to the two throwing insults at one another. They are both written and performed straight down the middle. For Pataky, she exudes the physical presence of a seasoned action hero (I wonder if she and real life husband Chris Hemsworth ever exchange notes on how to be an onscreen badass). In terms of hand-to-hand combat and shoot outs, she meets the requirements with full force. Unfortunately, things go south when she is required to express the character’s inner turmoil. Despite Pataky’s best attempts, Collins is not written well enough to be dynamic – she is a variation of the stoic hero. In contrast, Luke Bracey does what he can to bring wit and charisma as Kessel, but as the villain he’s a bit of a blank slate. He’s more weaselly than intimidating, more annoying than threatening.
The action is divided episodically, sprinkled between Collins and Kessel’s bickering. In choreography and execution, the action is fine but forgettable. Most of the mayhem happens in or around the command center, which indicates possible budget limitations. This is further exemplified when we’re told that the terrorists took everyone else on base, rather than it being shown. The cinematography (Ross Emery) and editing (Rowan Maher) captures the fight scenes in a kind of flat, unmemorable style. The approach has such little impact that it only highlights the goofiness of the action, such as when Collins uses a gun to stab someone or when a terrorist springs out of the floor without warning. These moments are meant to be thrilling but end up being hilarious.
When it comes to plot structure and character development, Interceptor underachieves in every category. But if we were to examine this from a purely entertainment perspective, there might be enough to warrant a viewing. Although I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a “good movie,” I must admit there was never a point where I was bored stiff. Not every action film needs to have mind blowing stunt work or awe-inspiring set pieces. Sometimes good old-fashioned silliness is more than enough. Heck, Arnold Schwarzenegger chiseled out an entire career of ridiculous action and cheesy one liners. In fact, that is the big let down here. The production spent too much time trying to make this a well balance diet when it was begging to be junk food cinema.