Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Review: The Cold Light of Day

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

The Cold Light of Day poster

The Cold Light of Day (SPOILERS)
93 mins / Dir. Mabrouk El Mechri

Another blind viewing, as previous to seeing this listed on Cineworld's website, I'd heard nothing at all about this movie, and seen even less. How prophetic that would turn out to be...

The Plot: Arriving from San Francisco to visit his relocated family in Spain, Will Shaw finds out that his father's job with the US government isn't as benign as he'd previously believed, and when his family are abducted by terrorists he's drawn into a web of unlikely allies and mistrust.

The Good: A fairly descriptive start, a swift turn fifteen minutes in, and then it's high-octane thriller until the end. For what it is, it's pretty competently done. Henry Cavill puts in a good turn as Will; an ordinary man trying to cope in an extraordinary situation. Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver both phone their performances in a little as Will's Dad and Will's Dad's Boss respectively, but that's kind of why they were hired, so you don't mind too much. It's just that…

The Bad: After having watched Abduction, Haywire and Safe House fairly recently, I'm starting to wonder how the CIA actually gets anything fucking done. There's clearly no-one in the entire organisation that can be trusted, and you think that they'd have a better profiling system for potential operatives. What this leads to is… you don't have to make it that twisty-turny. The audience is already expecting that, and making it more twisty just confuses matters, it doesn't make them better. The film isn't overly complicated, but this is 'compensated for' by having characters portrayed as ambiguous when they really shouldn't be (he's shooting at our goodie: he's clearly a baddie no matter which country he's working for).

Colm Meaney turns up briefly at the end as a US CIA Agent for no discernible reason. Given that Sigourney Weaver's role in this is largely the same as in 'Abduction', and Meaney's is largely the same as 'Safe House', I'm going to pretend they're actually the same characters, and while these films aren't part of a fixed series, they're 'same universe' works. Am I allowed to do that?

• The incidental music's a little overbearing ('dark, ominous tones'), but you soon manage to tune it out when you're getting important (well…) plot points relayed in heavily accented pidgin English from characters whose names you can't quite remember.

• There's some hinting that Will's job back in the US is similar to his father's, and while it would explain how he could survive for so long being hunted by several armed groups, it doesn't explain why he's so inept when he's got a gun in his hands. Anyway, it isn't explained properly, so it's academic really.

• The fast cutting isn't quite enough to distract you from playing the missing props game. Will's swim-bag goes mysteriously missing in one shot, only to re-appear in the next, and at one point Lucia is wearing a denim shirt-type-thing over her dress when they're on the train, then it's gone for no reason whatsoever.

Spoilers - highlight to read: I expected Bruce Willis to come back at the end. Is that wrong? Who hires Willis for an action-thriller then has him killed twenty minutes in? Did he film him scenes during his weekend-off, or something? A-listing aside, the real reason I expected him to come back was because his death-scene was so unconvincing. But he doesn't come back. He's dead. Unbelievably, prematurely dead.

The Ugly: Considering the actual title, this is a dark film. I don't mean thematically dark, more 'what the bloody hell's going on'?. Stretches of the movie take place at night with little-to-no ambient lighting, and even during the daylight scenes, the director's fond of taking us into badly lit apartment blocks and underground car parks. If this was for talky scenes where the subdued visuals allow the audience to concentrate on important dialogue, then fair enough, but no. This is for shoot-outs, car chases and fist-fights. By the time you've factored in the hand-held cameras and rapid shot-cutting, other than the characters present and the fact that there's some manner of fracas I couldn't tell who was winning or losing. Best just wait and see who stands up at the end of it all, eh?

Normally, I'd recommend this for a night on the sofa with a couple of beers. But in all honesty, if I'm struggling to make out what's happening in a darkened auditorium specifically designed for watching movies, you stand no chance at all in your living room. Good luck.

Worth £8+? No.


I want to rate it more highly, but looking at all that on balance, I can't really. I get the feeling that in different hands, The Cold Light of Day could have been so much better.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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