Any film that has its star leave the production one week before scheduled shooting should come with a warning: ‘wasted time lies beyond this point.' Such is the case with "Stratton," as Henry Cavill - also originally attached as a producer - abruptly walked from the production due to creative differences and was replaced by Dominic Cooper ("Warcraft").
The fault with the film - which centers around a British Special Forces commando as he tracks down a former Soviet commando turned terrorist in possession of chemical weapons - is not in Cooper's performance as the title character; rather it is in the script itself. It seems as though writer Duncan Falconer was worried that playing off of just a few spy genre tropes wouldn't be enough, so he used them all: protagonist looking for revenge, antagonist looking for revenge, good guy bad guy personal connection, a mole in the agency... Nothing about the script has a feeling of originality and the viewer has trouble engaging as it lurches from one checked box to the next.
Sadly, "Stratton" is as lacking in subtlety and story flow as it is in originality. In one scene, Stratton returns home from an emotionally and physically taxing mission only to find a Dear John post-it note attached to a hanger in his closet. It was so ham fisted that I actually laughed. Thankfully, this scene leads to the introduction of Ross (Derek Jacobi, "Murder on the Orient Express"), Stratton's boathouse-dwelling neighbor and father figure. Jacobi's limited time on screen brings the best acting and real moments of believable connection between characters. Despite Jacobi's quality, his scenes are for franchise world-building and add nothing to this particular script.
Despite these shortcomings, there are some positives outside of Jacobi's performance. Dominic Cooper does a fine job with the lead and, given more to work with, shows that he could be a legitimate action lead. Also, his character, Stratton, has an air of believability that is welcome. Franchises that this film was surely trying to emulate, like Bourne or Jack Reacher, have leads that seem to literally be able to do anything and take on any size force by themselves, but Stratton works within a defined military structure and always in a team.
We'll never know what the creative differences were that led to Cavill's departure, but maybe his changes would have been enough to warrant a sequel. As it stands, "Stratton" is probably done before it ever really gets started. While watching this in theaters is too much of an ask, there is enough here to not require a channel change were it to come on your TV in the middle of a lazy weekend.
|Summary||Focusing on building a franchise around the titular British Special Forces commando, director Simon West forgot to make a stand-alone movie.|