There are those films with big stars that you know are because the actors love the part, then there are the films that actors are in, and you know it’s for simply money. There can be no other explanation for actors such as Al Pacino and Colin Farrell to star in this other than that simple reason. There’s a mood director Roger Donaldson is going for desperately but fails with every leap trudging through the plot with a tried attempt. He attempts to go for the Tom Clancy mood and motif with the murky and sometimes sharp cinematography, but little does he know that the script is the ultimate down fall to this film. There’s nothing to like about this movie from its plot holes to immense lapses in logic; for instance, how is it that Clayton goes from a top computer programmer, to a moon lighting bartender right into the CIA without any training beforehand?
It’s not only far-fetched but becomes impossible to forgive and believe. It’s becomes evident during the poker scene where he learns about his classmates who know many languages, and have training in some form of police training, then you compare them to Clayton who is just a computer hacker. Aside from that, Clayton is such a putz and completely gullible; During an impromptu mission where he and other classmates are supposed to pick up girls at a bar in a limited time period, Farrell stumbles upon Moynahan’s character. Once Moynahan’s character informs Farrell that she’s been kicked out of the academy he rushes to her aide to help her, not knowing that he’s just been duped.
Why he never rushes to assumptions at her sudden appearance after Pacino’s character repeatedly says: “Trust no one. Nothing is as it seems”, is beyond me, instead he’s foiled in her trap. Femme Fatales in the old thirties films would have a field day with him. Once I saw Farrell as a computer programmer, I instantly thought of Bill Maher’s speech in his show about the guy who hacked into Macintosh: “Don’t believe the hype about hackers, they’re not the cool ones, they’re don’t get laid at every corner”. It’s hard to believe Farrell’s character Clayton would even be a hacker in the first place? The story takes an up and down mode throughout the course of viewing; it’s very appealing and entertaining in the beginning as we watch and learn about the training courses of “The Farm” in which people are supposed to engage in different obstacle courses.
But then it instantly turns shifts from a potentially stylish ensemble film with a great array of characters to a dull and low-key dramatic thriller with barely any twists and turns worth mentioning. I really enjoyed the training scenes involving the CIA camp and every obstacle and detail. It was very entertaining to watch the agents attempt to escape and plant devices. It would have been nice had the film only focused on the training and eventually lead to the mission instead of heading into the story. Also, the film is almost saved by the witty and original ending with a huge misunderstanding involving Pacino and Farrell that seemed tacked on, but tacked on for great use. Al Pacino who does an impression of himself impersonating a supervisor instantly informs Farrell that someone has created a device called Ice 9 that, when plugged into any socket in the world, can lock into any technological grid and shut it down.
It’s hard to believe that something so incredible can be so low-tech? It’s hard to believe as a sum of plot motivation. There’s no focus in the story; the director and three (count ’em) three screenwriters have no idea who to focus on, yet decide to focus on everyone. Pacino does an impression of himself in this film with his gruff, no-nonsense attitude as he scoffs and smokes a cigar in the background. After his almost unforgivable role in the awful “Simone”, I was hesitant to give him a chance, but I’m holding up hope he’ll bring in a good performance sooner or later. Farrell does what he does best: shining his looks and relying on his humble personality to get the audience to root for him. Even when he’s revealed as the baddie, he becomes another character who talks and reveals his plans step by step when it never occurs to him to just shoot Clayton.
The problems with him as a main character is that there’s nothing to really like about him. He’s broadly developed with a mere background story with his father who may or may not have been a CIA agent, it’s never verified, also he has little to no personality, and there’s nothing truly interesting about him. The love plot between him and Moynahan is tedious and sometimes seems like filler with constant focus on them. Moynahan’s character is also somewhat broadly developed with also a cookie cutter personality. She seems like a cardboard cut-out at times and I was never really sure if she was meant as an enemy or romantic entanglement to Farrell’s character. I instantly became bored. Occasionally entertaining, but just another bland and dull action offering from the talented Farrell and Pacino with a far-fetched plot, bad writing, and an uneventful story. I’m still hoping Pacino will dazzle with a great performance eventually, I just know it!