UK Release Date: 1st September 2017
Runtime: 94 minutes
Director: Simon West
Writer: Duncan Falconer, Warren Davis II
Starring: Dominic Cooper, Thomas Kretschmann, Connie Nielsen, Gemma Chan, Austin Stowell, Tom Felton, Derek Jacobi
Synopsis: A Special Boat Service agent must track down an international terrorist before he is able to obtain what he needs to carry out a biochemical attack on a major city.
It seems odd that an organisation as exciting as the British Special Boat Service hasn’t really been depicted all that often on the big screen. On the face of it, they’re a completely badass corner of the British intelligence services, but the far more glamorous SAS gets the lion’s share of the screen time. If Stratton is anything to go by, though, the sidelining of the SBS might be a wise move. Not even the action flair of Con Air director Simon West is enough to liven up this leaden tale of biochemical terrorism, obvious betrayals and at least one utterly bizarre attempt at a British accent.
SBS operative John Stratton (Dominic Cooper) is on the trail of a terrorist cell when his partner in the field is murdered by the group’s ringleader – former KGB man Barovsky (Thomas Kretschmann). Barovsky is a former enemy of Stratton’s superior Sumner (Connie Nielsen) and has been presumed dead for many years. With the help of technical experts Aggy (Gemma Chan) and Cummings (Tom Felton), Stratton teams up with new American partner Hank (Austin Stowell) to bring Barovsky down.
There’s absolutely nothing special at all about Stratton, which is exactly the brand of paint-by-numbers action movie that you expect it to be when the lights go down in the cinema. It’s a conspiracy thriller where the person who looks shifty at the beginning is the one who’s hiding a secret and every action scene unfolds exactly in the way you imagine it will. This is a film with no notion of surprising its audience or providing anything that is out of the ordinary for a film of this genre.
Dominic Cooper makes for a decent action man, though he doesn’t quite have the charisma to enhance the meagre material he is offered. In the hands of a more dynamic leading presence, this could almost have worked, but Cooper is not up to the challenge. I was troubled throughout by the notion of how Stratton could have been potentially far more interesting if Jason Statham, who has worked with West on three separate occasions, had taken up the leading role. If there’s anyone immediately believable as a revenge-driven, seafaring action hero, it’s the Stath.
The film really benefits from the presence of West behind the camera. His career-long focus on action pays off in that the fight sequences and gun battles are helmed with the confidence of someone who knows exactly what they are doing. It’s in the character beats between the action, when West steps aside in deference to the script, that Stratton really falters. A series of bizarre scenes involving the legendary Derek Jacobi are tonally off and exist solely to try to give Cooper’s character some backstory. Nothing, though, is as unusual as whatever approximation of a British accent Connie Nielsen was told to do. It would leave even Dick Van Dyke cackling like an idiot.
Stratton is a throwaway, conventional action movie that floats merrily out of your brain as soon as you emerge blinking into the sunshine after leaving the cinema. It’s not an offensively poor evening at the movies by any stretch of the imagination but, like much of Liam Neeson‘s oeuvre for the last decade, it is the kind of tedious, shallow nonsense that begins to numb your brain if you sit through a few too many of them
Pop or Poop?
When Stratton turns up on streaming platforms in a year or so, it might be worth giving it a couple of hours of your time. In the cinema though, it’s a film that passes by in slow-motion, without so much as even flickering into life from a character perspective. The action scenes just about work, but they’re not backed up by anything approaching a worthwhile plot.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.