You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Stratton’

Dominic Cooper is the titular British SBS agent in this misfired first screen adaptation from Duncan Falconer's espionage novels.

Simon West
Dominic Cooper, Austin Stowell, Gemma Chan, Connie Nielsen
Release Date:
Jan 5, 2018

Rated R  1 hour 34 minutes

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3567666/

No intended franchise can recover from a dud launch, and “Stratton” is that kind of stillbirth: an action movie that feels as though collaborators lost heart before the cameras started rolling, perhaps in part because “Superman” Henry Cavill jumped ship just five days before shooting was scheduled to begin.

The resulting misfire certainly can’t be blamed on Dominic Cooper, who replaced him in the title role. Still, there’s definitely something dispirited and clock-punching about this flat actioner, adapted from the first in a series of eight espionage novels written by Duncan Falconer, an ex-operator for the Special Boats Services sector of Britain’s MI6. Adequately directed by “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” helmer Simon West, the U.K. production is limping into U.S. theaters during the post-holiday doldrums, having already opened last year in most territories.

The whole enterprise feels desultory from the jump, with dialogue that flatlines whether aiming for banter or urgent import — or both, in the opening sequence when Sgt. John Stratton (Cooper) and U.S. Navy Seal Marty (Tyler Hoechlin) take an underwater approach to sneaking into a biochemical plant on the Iranian coast. Discovering the workers there already dead — presumably poisoned by their own weapon — they’re fired upon by forces that turn out to be led by former Soviet evildoer Barovski (Thomas Kretschmann). The latter fatally wounds Marty, while absconding with “Satan’s Snow,” a killing gas he soon uses to exterminate an entire village in the Ukraine.

Barovski’s resurfacing pleases no one, least of all Stratton’s boss Sumner (a terribly arch Connie Nielsen), who once seduced what she now calls “the most dangerous man I ever met” into becoming an informer, and thought him dead the last 20 years. She orders him tracked down ASAP by Stratton, plus colleagues played by Gemma Chan, Jake Fairbrother and Tom Felton (whose character is soon blackmailed into double-agentry). Joining them is Austin Stowell as a new Yank arrival whose over-zealous desire to avenge Marty’s demise proves a strategic liability.

The action hops to Italy for a bit before returning to the U.K., where Barovski leads the good guys on chases via both speedboat and double-decker bus. Unfortunately, these complicated setpieces somehow feel more cumbersome than energized, with odd technical flaws (dodgy explosion VFX, muffled sound FX) further muting impact. Kretschmann carries his usual air of authority, yet we never get a vivid sense of this villain’s motivations, rendering him a generic baddie. Cooper is credible and relaxed, though his low-key turn lacks the charismatic panache needed to float an otherwise uninspired enterprise of this type.

That’s a problem sported by “Stratton” as a whole: Solidly pro in overall packaging yet cliched, pedestrian and indistinct in specific contributions, this thriller never finds (let alone raises) its own pulse. It desperately needs just the kind of confident, self-mocking flair West brought to popcorn action terrain in “Con Air” two decades ago, but which has increasingly eluded him since.

Film Review: 'Stratton'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, Jan. 4, 2017. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 94 MIN.

Production: (U.K.) A Momentum Pictures release (U.S.) of a GFM Films presentation of a Stratton Film production in association with Squareone Entertainment, Tickenham Studios and Atomic Arts. Producer: Matthew Jenkins, Guy Collins, Paul Levinson. Executive producers: Jib Polhemus, Michael Ryan, Fred Hedman, Ben White, Co-producers: Sunny Vohra, Maria Walker.

Crew: Director: Simon West. Screenplay: Duncan Falconer, Warren Davis, based on the book “The Hostage” by Falconer. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Flex Weidemann. Editor: Andrew MacRitchie. Music: Nathaniel Mechaly.

With: Dominic Cooper, Austin Stowell, Gemma Chan, Connie Nielsen, Thomas Kretschmann, Tom Felton, Jake Fairbrother, Tyler Hoechlin, Derek Jacobi, Lizzie Winkler, Rinat Khismatouline, Igal Naor, Olegar Fedoro, Yuri Kolokolnikov, Ilan Goodman.

More Film

  • Ari Emanuel Endeavor

    Endeavor IPO Filing Offers Details of Company's Financials, Leadership Pay Packages

    Endeavor’s IPO filing Thursday offers a hard look at the company’s financial performance during the past three years during a period of rapid growth for the company that’s home to UFC, WME, Professional Bull Riders and a clutch of other assets. Endeavor is generating solid free cash flow from operations and healthy adjusted earnings for [...]

  • Inside amfAR's Cannes Gala

    Inside amfAR's Cannes Gala: Mariah Carey, Kendall Jenner and Tiffany Trump

    Kendall Jenner caused a commotion when she arrived. Tiffany Trump went unrecognized until a member of the press pointed her out as she made her way down the carpet. And Mariah Carey flew in to perform a couple of songs. Welcome to this year’s AmfAR Gala Cannes, the AIDS organization’s annual — and largest — [...]

  • 'Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo' Review: Abdellatif

    Cannes Film Review: 'Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo'

    A simple but somehow atypical shot opens Abdellatif Kechiche’s new film: a serene closeup of a young woman’s face, as seen through the camera lens of Amir, a budding photographer still finding his perspective. Her expression is ambiguously tranquil, her long hair lightly rustled by a humid breeze, all softly lit by a sinking afternoon [...]

  • Crown Vic

    Thomas Jane's Police Thriller 'Crown Vic' Sells to Screen Media (EXCLUSIVE)

    Screen Media has bought North American rights to writer-director Joel Souza’s police crime-thriller “Crown Vic,” starring Thomas Jane and Luke Kleintank. The distributor closed terms during the Cannes Film Festival amid a competitive bidding situation between seven other suitors. Screen Media plans to release the pic this fall. “Crown Vic” premiered in April at the [...]

  • Colleen Bell

    Colleen Bell Replaces Amy Lemisch as California Film Commission Director

    Veteran entertainment executive and ambassador Colleen Bell will replace Amy Lemisch as director of the California Film Commission. Bell, who was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday, has worked as a consultant since 2017. She was the U.S. ambassador to Hungary from 2014 to 2017. She held several positions at Bell-Phillip Television Productions, including [...]

  • Jon Feltheimer

    Lionsgate Posts Loss, Underperforms Wall Street Expectations

    Lionsgate has posted a quarterly loss and its revenues and operating income have come in under Wall Street projections, despite growth from its premium cable channel, Starz. The studio reported a net loss of $24 million, or 11 cents a share, with adjusted operating income of $103 million for its fourth fiscal quarter ended March [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content