Stratton Review


There are moments during the opening scenes of Simon West’s latest offering, Stratton, when you think, sure there is a serious lack of imagination here, but overall this could be a relatively satisfactory cinema outing.

The rate at which this feeling dissipates is quite alarming.

John ‘just call me Stratton’ Stratton is one of the top members of the Special Boat Service.

Nope, me neither.

The Special Boat Service, or SBS, is an elite British special forces unit which was created during World War II and formed the basis of similar models in the United States.

We first encounter Stratton in Iran, on a mission to find and destroy some biological thingamajig. It all goes very wrong and casualties are sustained.

The Macguffin in this instance consists of a deadly weapon called Satan’s Snow, which the nefarious Grigory Barovsky is intending to unleash on the world.

It is up to Stratton and MI5 to pull out all stops to uncover Barovsky’s scheme and target.

Many years back, West directed the so-bad-it’s-awesome Con Air, so you’d be forgiven for expecting well-choreographed action, strong performances and, dare we say, some fun?

Okay: there are some initial underwater scenes and a shootout / car chase which is all done quite well. And, yes, there is a welcome separation of special forces and intelligence agencies, something which the Bond series unapologetically mashes together.

However any hopes for an enjoyable hour and a half quickly disappear as soon as Stratton pops back to London and checks in with his superior and human exposition machine, Sumner (played by Connie Nielsen).

If Stratton draws the attentions of the Razzies, Nielsen’s turn here guarantees contention for the worst actress category.

And Nielsen is not the only culprit. Tom Felton, Gemma Chan and Thomas Kretschmann have all seen better days. In fact, the only real respite comes from Cooper’s scenes with the great Derek Jacobi, whose character acts as a father figure to Stratton.

Speaking of Cooper, who replaced Henry Cavill shortly before filming began, he puts on a passable by-the-numbers, tough-guy act here and just about gets away with it. Even if he looks a little embarrassed at times.

I have admittedly not read any of the source novel series by Duncan Falconer but suspect that much has been lost in the translation to the big screen.

In fact, it is probably just easier to list the ways in which the film does not inject anything new to the action genre.

Early personal tragedy to give central character emotional depth and motivation? Check.

Gratuitous globetrotting? Check.

Heavily signposted double-agent? Check.

Central character pulls jagged chunk of metal from leg after vehicular crash? Check.

Boss who thinks central character is wreckless but respects them nonetheless? Check.

Romantic tension with attractive co-worker? Check.

Foreign villain who mercilessly kills a subordinate for failure? Check.

And I could go on.

Most of the people involved in this lacklustre Bond-Bourne knock-off will probably emerge generally unscathed, but it is highly doubtful that this entry will kickstart the clearly-intended Stratton film franchise.

Conor Brennan

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Dates ‘n stuff

September 2017