Director: Phillipp Stölzl
Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Liana Liberato, Olga Kurylenko, Neil Napier, Alexander Fehling, Debbie Wong, Garrick Hagon
Runtime: 1 hr 44 mins
Rating: PG (Violence)
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Opening Day: 24 January 2013
Synopsis: Recently widowed Ben Logan (Aaron Eckhart) has quit his job as a top CIA agent and moved to Cologne to raise his teenage daughter, from whom he has been estranged for the past 14 years. While trying to rebuild his relationship with his daughter, he takes a job for a security systems arm of a multi-national corporation, where he is paid to expose weaknesses in their security technology so they can make a better product. Or so he thinks.
When Ben’s colleague points out something strange about a patent number on a security device she is testing, he relays her concern to his supervisor. The next day when Ben arrives at the office it is completely empty. All people and traces of the business are gone. Ben soon learns that the parent corporation never had a security solutions arm, let alone an office in Cologne. As Ben pieces together what has happened, he realizes that he is a marked man running on borrowed time. He and his daughter must learn to trust each other and work together if they are to survive on the run, while also trying to unearth and foil the conspiracy that threatens their lives.
Made using a typical Hollywood formula and filmed entirely in Belgium, this international co-production star Aaron Eckhart as the expatriate, not the usual suit-up businessmen working and living on foreign soil but an ex-CIA operative agent (now banished as a white collar worker working for a security firm) who finds out that someone is out to terminate him after the company he is working for disappear overnight.
The script by Arash Amel attempts to add a little flavour to the usual crops of action thrillers by focusing much of the characterization and development on Ben Logan (Eckhart) and his estranged daughter, Amy (Liana Liberto). Logan has been an absentee dad for years and his decision to bring Amy over to Belgium to stay with him after her mum passed is difficult for Amy to adjust. Living with a teenager is not easy let alone living with one you have not got in touch in years. Thus over the course of the movie, audience gets to see the bonding of father-and-daughter under unlikely circumstances. To Amel’s credit, it’s a nicely execute sentimental subplot that fairs better than the gist of the story which we will get there shortly.
Most audience is going to complain that “The Expatriate” ripped elements off “The Bourne Trilogy” and “Taken”, indeed at the end of the day, this Aaron Eckhart starrer does have certain similarities to his more famous counterparts. Unfortunately, lacking an enormous budget deter director Philipp Stolzl who is making his first feature debut from carrying out fanciful action sequences. The Bourne series of course offers plenty of them on a large scale while Liam Neeson nearly took out every baddies in Paris searching for his missing daughter. “The Expatriate” on the other hand has to settle on lots of foot chases and inbetween a couple of amateur shootouts. For a spy thriller, the action quotient is seriously underwhelming and the inclusion of more sequences featuring Logan’s fisticuffs with his opponents would be far satisfying.
Lacking in the pyrotechnics department, Stolzl and Amel compensates by pulling off an unnecessarily complicated story that involves a rogue CIA agent and a huge felony concerning an international company that is shipping illegal arms. It sounds exciting for a while but then it gets tedious and bored when our hero, Ben Logan has nothing interesting on hand to keep us entertained. He didn’t crash through windows nor did he embark on any exhilarating car chases across Belgium unless you crave for a hero who is skilled in DIY explosion, then you have one right here.
Aaron Eckhart is one underrated actor working in Hollywood. His performance is flawless be it in the drama, “Rabbit Hole” or as the action hero in “Battle Los Angeles” and no doubt, Eckhart once again puts up an appealing front as the sufferable hero, Ben Logan. The exotic Olga Kurylenko from “Quantum of Solace” plays the ex-girlfriend of Logan who turns rogue, a character that is underwritten and forgettable given the immerse potential of it which is a pity. Young star Liana Liberto is adept as the rebellious, aghast teenager and Yassine Fadel probably an Islamic Arabic defies the usual stereotyping in Hollywood movies, plays the ally of Logan and Amy.
In the context of globetrotting spy thrillers that paints a far more sinister picture than you imagined, “The Expatriate” is a mild affair to sit through despite the promised plotting. Take heart that the movie often displayed breathtaking shots of the city of Brussels etc and the production scale is genuinely impressive on the whole. “The Expatriate” is an excellent choice for cable viewing however lacks the urgency to catch it on the big screen.
(An ambitious plotting bogged down by less than stellar action sequences)
Review by Linus Tee