SAS: Red Notice, 2021.
Directed by Magnus Martens.
Starring Sam Heughan, Ruby Rose, Andy Serkis, Tom Wilkinson, Tom Hopper, Hannah John-Kamen, Noel Clarke, Owain Yeoman, Ray Panthaki, Anne Reid, Sarah Winter, Caroline Boulton, Richard McCabe, and Douglas Reith.
A small army of well-trained criminals led by Laszlo Antonov have hijacked the Eurostar deep beneath the English Channel.
Somewhere at the core of SAS: Red Notice is the question of can psychopaths also be lovers, and as you could probably imagine, the hero and villain of this hostage action thriller are compared and contrasted by those traits. In other words, it’s an action movie that comes down to the old adage of ” you and I are the same”, but as generic and outplayed as that sentiment is, director Magnus Martens (with a script from Laurence Malkin based on the novel of the same name by Andy McNab) goes all-in on the brutality and unhinged part that make for winning performances from both Sam Heughan and Ruby Rose, both verbally and physically.
Tom (Heughan) is a member of the Special Air Service and so dedicated to the unsavory parts of his line of work that he doesn’t think twice or reflect upon killing people in combat whether they are armed or not, man or female, or any number of wide-ranging factors. Naturally, this mildly concerns his hopeful fiancé (Tom is planning to propose on vacation in Paris) Dr. Sophie Hart (Hannah John-Kamen, who at times is the true hero here caught between political games between the military and terrorists as she goes about trying to save civilians including children) whose profession obviously couldn’t be any more different from his. The character work between them essentially just amounts to coming to understand one another better, which is done well enough before going off the rails in the epilogue.
You’re also probably not going to rent a movie called SAS: Red Notice for the character work, though, so it’s forgivable considering there’s more than enough action, stakes, and urgency to keep us invested in the negotiations and violence. With that said, the leader of this small group of terrorists (the UK officially labels them war criminals) is Ruby Rose’s Grace Lewis, by chance taking over the same train that is bringing Tom and Sophie to Paris. Grace is not after them; she’s clearly after something more and she’s not afraid to use civilians as collateral and shoot innocent people along the way to achieve whatever it is she wants. Sometimes wrongheaded but nonetheless engaging, the presentation also implies that we should actually be on her side as if the UK government and certain members of the SAS are hiding something.
It’s not a spoiler to say that there are good and bad people on both sides, with Andy Serkis playing a SAS commander of sorts that needs Grace taken out to cover up some of his own shady behavior. The scandal is so far-reaching that he places her assassination above the safety of innocent people aboard the now stopped train. It’s also certainly a bold choice to bring Grace’s character so far into that aforementioned psychopathic territory (she even has a brief discussion about these actions with her own teacher and leader, her father as played by Tom Wilkinson); the amount of screen time, the ferocious performance, and the betrayal nearly paint her as a protagonist if not for the part about hurting others. Simultaneously, there’s not enough story here to say she’s a complex individual.
Again, It’s best not to get too caught up in the details of these people, as when it comes down to it SAS: Red Notice is a gritty thriller more concerned with Sam Heughan sneaking around an underground tunnel getting into plenty of shootouts and hand-to-hand fights. Some of the firefights are sloppily edited but made up for by sequences such as a neck being snapped as two people fall down a shaft. Of course, there’s a terrific final fight between Sam Heughan and Ruby Rose that is technical and visceral with blood flowing. Needless to say, SAS: Red Notice is a winner strictly in the action department, but there is also admiration to be found in the messy behavior of its characters.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com