Unstoppable (2010; USA; DeLuxe; 98m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Tony Scott; w. Mark Bomback; ph. Ben Seresin; m. Harry Gregson-Williams. Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Ethan Suples, Kevin Dunn, Kevin Corrigan, Lew Temple, T.J. Miller, Kevin Chapman, Jessy Schram, David Warshofskyt, Andy Umberger, Elizabeth Mathis, Meagan Tandy, Dylan Bruce. With an unmanned, half-mile-long freight train barrelling toward a city, a veteran engineer and a young conductor race against the clock to prevent a catastrophe. Fast-paced, crowd-pleasing thrill ride. Washington and Pine make for a great combination as unlikely heroes. Superbly directed and edited it makes the most of its popcorn script. The film was loosely based on the real-life CSX 8888 incident in the U.S. state of Ohio in 2001. Unfortunately, the film was Scott’s final one before his death in 2012. 
Executive Decision (1996; USA; Technicolor; 133m) ∗∗∗½ d. Stuart Baird; w. Jim Thomas, John Thomas; ph. Alex Thomson; m. Jerry Goldsmith. Cast: Kurt Russell, Steven Seagal, Halle Berry, John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt, David Suchet, Joe Morton, J.T. Walsh, Mary Ellen Trainor, Len Cariou, B.D. Wong, Whip Hubley, Andreas Katsulas, Marla Maples, William James Jones. When terrorists seize control of an airliner, an intelligence analyst accompanies a commando unit for a mid-air boarding operation. Well directed and suspenseful thriller that makes the most of its formulaic script. Russell scores as fish-out-of-water analyst thrown into the heat of the action and Suchet is also excellent as the single-minded terrorist leader. Only downside is it produces one grandstand finale too many. 
Wild Geese, The (1978; UK/Switzerland; Eastmancolor; 134m) ∗∗∗ d. Andrew V. McLaglen; w. Reginald Rose; ph. Jack Hildyard; m. Roy Budd. Cast: Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Roger Moore, Hardy Kruger, Stewart Granger, Jack Watson, Frank Finlay, Jeff Corey, Winston Ntshona, John Kani, Jack Watson, Kenneth Griffith, Barry Foster, Ronald Fraser, Ian Yule. A British multinational seeks to overthrow a vicious dictator in central Africa. It hires a band of (largely aged) mercenaries in London and sends them in to save the virtuous but imprisoned opposition leader who is also critically ill and due for execution. Whilst this action thriller may be littered with cliches and weighed down by a by-the-numbers script, there is still much to enjoy. The lead performances are strong and the action sequences well directed. Some clumsy and dated handling of the racial politics aside this makes for diverting viewing. Based on the novel by Daniel Carney. Followed by WILD GEESE II (1985). 
Unknown (2011; UK/Germany/France/Canada/Japan/USA; Technicolor; 113m) ∗∗½ d. Jaume Collet-Serra; w. Oliver Butcher, Stephen Cornwell; ph. Flavio Martínez Labiano; m. John Ottman, Alexander Rudd. Cast: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Bruno Ganz, Frank Langella, Sebastian Koch, Olivier Schneider, Stipe Erceq, Rainer Bock, Mido Hamada, Clint Dyer, Karl Markovics, Eva Lobau, Helen Wiebensohn. A man awakens from a coma, only to discover that someone has taken on his identity and that no one, (not even his wife), believes him. With the help of a young woman, he sets out to prove who he is. Intriguing idea is let down by a hokey script and routine direction. Neeson does his best and brings some class to the proceedings and Ganz is impressive as a German PI with a past. Those willing to accept some of the absurdities of the screenplay may find elements to enjoy. Based on the novel “Out of My Head” by Didier Van Cauwelaert. 
Jack Reacher (2012; USA; DeLuxe; 130m) ∗∗∗½ d. Christopher McQuarrie; w. Christopher McQuarrie; ph. Caleb Deschanel; m. Joe Kraemer. Cast: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo, Werner Herzog, Jai Courtney, Vladimir Sizov, Joseph Sikora, Michael Raymond-James, Alexia Fast, Josh Helman, Robert Duvall, James Martin Kelly, Dylan Kussman, Denver Milord. A homicide investigator digs deeper into a case involving a trained military sniper who shot five random victims. Cruise delivers an excellent performance, despite being miscast, in this well-crafted crime thriller. The plot is involving and the action scenes well-staged. Pike offers strong support as the lawyer and Duvall shows up late in the day to add some class. Based on the novel “One Shot” by Lee Child. The character from Child’s book series is described as 6’5″ tall and weighing between 210 and 250 pounds (Cruise is 5’7″ tall). Followed by JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK in 2016. 
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016; USA; Colour; 118m) ∗∗½ d. Edward Zwick; w. Richard Wenk, Marshall Herskovitz, Edward Zwick; ph. Oliver Wood; m. Henry Jackman. Cast: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh, Aldis Hodge, Sue-Lynn Ansari, Teri Wyble, Holt McCallany, Robert Knepper, Tilton Lipoma, Madalyn Horcher, Michael Papajohn, Patrick Heusinger. Jack Reacher must uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy in order to clear his name. On the run as a fugitive from the law, Reacher uncovers a potential secret from his past that could change his life forever. Formulaic action thriller that benefits from Cruise’s charisma. However, the story lacks any real suspense due to a tick-box script that allows no breathing room and fails to demonstrate any real motivation for its characters. Based on the book by Lee Child. 
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016; USA; Colour; 134m) ∗∗∗½ d. Gareth Edwards; w. Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, John Knoll, Gary Whitta; ph. Greig Fraser; m. Michael Giacchino. Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whitaker, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jonathan Aris, Jimmy Smits, Alistair Petrie, Genevieve O’Reilly, Valene Kane, Warwick Davis. A Rebellion soldier and criminal, is about to experience her biggest challenge yet when Mon Mothma sets her out on a mission to steal the plans for the Death Star. Visually stunning and action-packed lead in to the original STAR WARS trilogy that cleverly lays the foundations. This instalment has a darkness emphasised by the impressive production design and often bleak locales. The new characters, however, lack any real depth as they are simply cyphers for the set-up. The performances also lack spark and chemistry – the actors delivering sometimes stilted and forced dialogue – but there remains a spirit to this adventure that suggests there is longevity in the franchise. Also shot in 3-D. 
Drive (2011; USA; Colour; 100m) ∗∗∗ d. Nicolas Winding Refn; w. Hossein Amini; ph. Newton Thomas Sigel; m. Cliff Martinez. Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Christina Hendricks, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, Bryan Cranston, Oscar Isaac, Tina Huang, Joe Pingue, Cesar Garcia, Tiara Parker, Christian Cage, James Biberi, Jeff Wolfe, River Stone Mckeever. A mysterious Hollywood stuntman, mechanic and getaway driver lands himself in trouble when he helps out his neighbour. Deliberately paced and intense, but often unpleasant, crime thriller is laced with doses of extreme violence. Elements work well – including a moody electronic score and strong supporting performances, but the one-tone nature of Gosling’s character and some flashy directorial touches make this a victory for style over substance. Based on the book by James Sallis. 
Taken – “Pilot Episode” (2016, USA, Colour, 43m) ∗∗½ pr. Luc Besson; d. Alex Graves; w. Alexander Cary; ph. Thomas Kloss; m. Trevor Morris; ed. Jordan Goldman; exec. pr. Thomas Anargyros, Luc Besson, Alexander Cary, Edouard de Vésinne, Matthew Gross. Cast: Clive Standen, Gaius Charles, Brooklyn Sudano, Monique Gabriela Curnen, Michael Irby, Jose Pablo Cantillo, James Landry Hébert, Jennifer Beals, Jennifer Marsala, Simu Liu, Ali Kazmi, Celeste Desjardins, Victoria Snow. Former Green Beret Bryan Mills (Standen) must overcome a personal tragedy, in order to get revenge while starting his career as a special intelligence operative. Standen is no substitute for Liam Neeson in this TV prequel to the TAKEN movie trilogy. Whilst the star lacks charisma and the dialogue feels like its been extracted from a scripting manual, the pilot sets up the series neatly enough and is well shot. There are also enough competently staged action sequences to enliven the standard espionage plot.
Safe House (2012; USA/South Africa/Japan; Colour; 115m) ∗∗∗ d. Daniel Espinosa; w. David Guggenheim; ph. Oliver Wood; m. Ramin Djawadi. Cast: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Rubén Blades, Nora Arnezeder, Robert Patrick, Liam Cunningham, Joel Kinnaman, Fares Fares. A young CIA agent is tasked with looking after a fugitive in a safe house. But when the safe house is attacked, he finds himself on the run with his charge. Washington and Reynolds are main assets of otherwise routine espionage action thriller. The action scenes lose tension due to haphazard nature of the editing and the script lacks depth in characterisation and plot.