Sunday, September 09, 2012

"The Cold Light of Day": The CIA vs. the "natural family"


In "The Cold Light of Day”, the young male action hero Will Shaw (Henry Cavill, born in the tax-sheltering Jersey Islands), still single and running his own brokerage company before 30, doesn’t question the idea that his parents and brother are his “family” when he hasn’t created one of his own.

Will also doesn’t know, until too late, that his dad (Bruce Willis) is really a CIA agent involved in double ops, while pretending to be a cultural attaché at the US Embassy in Spain. 

His “family” has invited him to spend a week’s vacation on the clan’s sailboat in the Mediterranean off the Spanish Riviera.  He didn’t exactly want to come, because his company back in San Francisco is tanking.  When he gets a cell phone call that his company has gone under, his dad want’s him running the sails and throws the Blackberry into the sea. 

It’s an odd setup.  Will swims back to town (this family’s hobby of sailing is very physical) to get some medication after a little accident  (to his brother’s “girlfriend”) caused by his indifference, and when he swims back, he finds his family “gone”.

The rest of the movie is largely spent in Madrid in a sequence of chases, extreme renditions, and double crosses (and one disco scene with great music), with rogue double agent Carrack (Sigourney Weaver, who plays a character inspired by Sofia in “The Event”).  There is a brief case that the government wants back – and it’s hard to see from the story why it’s so critical.  It relates to the Israeli-Palestine conflict, but it would need to have nuclear codes to be this important.  (It’s like wondering what’s in the tin box in the Russian film “The Return”.)

Will has lost is company, and his dad; but not to worry, the CIA wants to offer him a new career at the end.
I doubt the CIA really works this way.

Since the character is named “Will”, I wondered how Chandler Massey (playing a character with the same name and perhaps similar personality in the soap “Days of our Lives”) would have worked in the part. Maybe this movie is a future cross-over.

The film, from Summit (now part of Lionsgate) and E1 Entertainment, and director Mabrouck El Mechri, does remain in the B-movie, popcorn action genre, not quite drawing out its potential for character, plot, and message the way a Hitchcock film in the 60s would have.

In my own novel manuscript, the CIA agent has a “day job” as a high school history teacher, and his recent increase in covert activity has led to increasing assignments.  His wife has limited knowledge of this (a problem that I need to work on more  -- the benefit to me of watching a movie like this in checking my own work!), from his military past.  She doesn’t know he’s bisexual and unraveling.  In my book, the agent himself is mugged once (to give him an artifact) and then abducted (as opposed to kidnapped), and then later his son is abducted (but not harmed).  But the parallels in the story don’t get any closer.

The official site is here


There was a very small crowd in a large auditorium at Regal in Arlington VA on a Sunday night. 

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