Will (Henry Cavill) is a young businessman visiting his family while on holiday in Spain. With a testy relationship with his father Martin (Bruce Willis) and problems at work ruining his time, matters are made worse when his family are kidnapped and Martin is revealed to not be a ”Cultural Attache” but instead an active CIA operative working for Carrack (Sigourney Weaver). Will has 24 hours to save his family, and retrieve a mysterious briefcase, or all this will result in one of the worst vacations ever.
The Cold Light of Day is one of those films which on the face of it would appear to be best be called “filler”, a studio product released in a quiet time at the Box Office with one or two stars which hopes to make a bit of money before disappearing to the world of Sky Movies with relative speed. Backed by a trailer which screams “bland” and offers little hope of much merit, what surprises me, however, is that it’s one book you shouldn’t judge by its cover and while it’s far from perfect, it’s an entertaining and stylish romp which engages throughout.
Much of this is down to choices made by director Mabrouk El Mechri, who gained some notice with the celebrity deconstructing JCVD a few years back. Here he takes on a more conventional plot but imbues it with touches that feel as if more effort is being taken than with many equivalent films out there. El Mechri has style in spades but doesn’t wallow in it, instead constructing shots which are cool but not entirely flashy, be it a 360 around a beach highlighting a sense of isolation and paranoia or a conversation depicted through a rear-view mirror, there’s enough visual panache here, along with solidly choreographed and shot action sequences, to interest viewers who may have seen many films similar in plotting to this before.
What also impresses is such a simple thing as setting the film in what feels like an environment which isn’t used all that often, the wide vistas and beautiful architecture inherent within Spain, with action taking place in quiet beachy areas before taking on an increasingly metropolitan strain, varying up the scenery and again, creating decent visuals.
While the direction and technical aspects of the film are above average, it must be said that the film does fall down in one of those other major areas of filmmaking – the narrative. The general mystery surrounding the MacGuffin of this piece, a mysterious briefcase, goes through enough twists and turns, as does the life of Willis’ character, both have unexpected aspects to them but the general idea of who is against whom and how this “everyman” in Cavill’s character almost overnight becomes an epic badass is weakly developed and leads to some cringe-inducing moments at times which are likely par for the course with this fare but do disappoint given the surprise successes in other areas. It’s also worth noting that the cast largely go through the motions with Cavill, Willis and Weaver all playing their parts in a somewhat auto-pilot mode, being adequate at best.
Saying all this though, The Cold Light of Day is a pleasant surprise, as solid a Friday night rental as you’re likely to get at the moment, and a film with enough going on to warrant at least one viewing. Given the rather quiet nature of the film’s Box Office performance, it’s perhaps not a surprise that we get only a trailer in terms of extras, and one which is rather spoilery also. If you haven’t seen the trailer, I’d advise to skip it until you’ve seen the film.
The Cold Light of Day is released Monday 13th September on DVD and Blu-Ray through EOne Home Entertainment.