CIA specialist interrogator Alice Rancine (Noomi Rapace) is on secondment to MI5 while she nurses her guilt over a previously failed operation that left civilians dead. Her old boss Eric Lasch (Michael Douglas) thinks it’s time she returned to what she does best. Rancine then receives a request from the CIA London Station to crack a terrorist courier who can provide access to a major cell. However, it soon becomes clear that the operation has not been officially sanctioned and Rancine has been duped by rogue elements within the Agency. Alone and on the run from the CIA, MI5 and independent contractors, Alice finds an unexpected ally in ex-Marine Jack Alcott (Orlando Bloom) who she finds robbing her apartment. Together, the pair pursue the lead she obtained while interrogating the courier and attempt to stop a biological attack from happening on UK soil.
Unlocked, despite having the veneer of a contemporary story is a somewhat old school thriller. That is not in itself a bad thing. It is directed by veteran film maker Michael Apted in a workman like fashion and is functionally entertaining. It contains all the usual tropes found in the espionage genre, yet the screenplay written by Peter O’Brien manages to add sufficient difference to keep viewers interest. For example, Alice Rancine works as a legal advisor, doing pro-bono work among London’s immigrant community. Her work allows her to do “some good” as well as gather intelligence. Subsequently Unlocked features some interesting location filming in some of the poorer parts of London. It is welcome break from the usual US-centric material we’ve come to expect from thriller of this kind. The film is bolstered by a solid and reliable cast, featuring the likes of Toni Collette and John Malkovitch. Their presence makes the narrative a little more plausible and palatable.
Critics were not so impressed by Unlocked upon release and it garnered mix reviews. Some accused director Michael Apted of being out of touch. His last foray into the traditional spy film genre was Gorky Park, back in 1983. The main handicap with a film of this nature trying to find a fresh perspective or approach. Sadly, the Middle-east narrative has been done to death over the last twenty-five years and it’s worn a little thin. However, despite this flaw Unlocked does compensate in other areas. The UK and European settings do add a different narrative perspective and visual aesthetic. Unlocked benefits greatly from Noomi Rapace’s performance. Female leads are still not so common place in this genre. Furthermore, Unlocked is yet another of a handful of recently released action movies that have not sought the box office comfort of the PG-13 rating. Bad things happen in the world of espionage and Unlocked is happy to show them.