The most ‘interesting’ aspect of Matthew Reilly’s directorial debut Interceptor is its screenplay, where most things are suspiciously on cue. Elsa Pataky plays JJ Collins, a soldier who spent her childhood as an army brat in Spain, thus the accent. I’m not an expert on army brats or expats, but most of them don’t have accents.
I’ll let that pass, I’ll even excuse the fact that dialogue with an Ensign Washington (Belinda Jombwe) slid that backstory in to explain Pataky’s accent. The military, for reasons that the movie eventually explains, gives her a grunt job at a naval base that intercepts missiles. They, duh, intercept Russian chatter about someone stealing 16 of their missiles. Her boss tells her that “If it were real, the Pentagon would’ve called us by now”.
You’ll never guess what happens next. Right on cue, the Pentagon calls telling them about missiles heading to America. This action thriller is smart on the production side of things. The stakes are high even if most of Interceptor happens within one room. As it turns out, the person who plans to launch those missiles is Alexander Kessel (Luke Bracey).
Alexander, at various points in the movie, finds himself in and out of the base’s control room. While he’s in, he runs a live feed of what’s happening in the room. He incapacitates Shah, the only other living person who can help JJ ward Alexander off. Then, Alexander explains another part of JJ’s back story as someone who gets a demotion for whistleblowing on a general who sexually harassed her.
Why would a woman fight for a country that failed her, he asks, along with us the viewers. Interceptor never answers this question. By the way, Pataky’s husband Chris Hemsworth appears as a TV salesman somewhere in urban America. He boos Alexander when the latter uses JJ’s MeToo story against her.
Anyway, as JJ, Pataky had to bring that conflict to light and be a presence and kick ass but she’s only good at the latter two things. In fairness to her, she can only do so much. The only thing that the screenplay give her are didactic conversations with Alexander.
Well, that and other conversations with a General Dyson (Marcus Johnson) at the Pentagon telling her that she’s doing a good job. The ‘Pentagon’ scenes aim for a feel like it’s a throwback to 1980s or 1990s nuclear action thrillers and it makes me wish for a few things. First, I wished those movies had female protagonists.
Second, that this movie exists without the strings attached that put someone as lacking as Pataky. There are a few actresses within her age range who can pull off both the action and the dramatic parts better than she does. Just because her arms look better than mine doesn’t mean she can carry a movie.
Watch Interceptor on Netflix, if you dare.