Based on Duncan Falconer’s book The Hostage, Stratton follows John Stratton (Dominic Cooper), a Special Boat Service operative, who along with a secret services team is trying to intercept a batch of deadly biochemical weapons. The weapons find their way into the hands of former Soviet operative Grigory Barovsky (Thomas Kretschmann) who plans to drop them on London and there is only limited time for Stratton to stop him.
Dominic Cooper tries his best in the central role but the script gives him very little to work with. The dialogue is poor and the premise is tired and predictable. The plot is rarely, if ever, interesting and holds no surprises or unexpected turns. The rest of the cast are fairly unmemorable, expect Tom Felton, best known for playing Draco is Harry Potter, who looks really out of place. He is awkward, nervy, and barely able to articulate his lines.
Considering that director Simon West has previously made Con Air and The Expendables 2 you could have expected Stratton to at least have some exciting action sequences. Unfortunately each set piece in disappointing and a bit dull. There is not the production value to fill them with pyrotechnics or the realism to give them a gritty punch. Instead much of the film lies in a strange limbo, unable to decide what it should be.
Simon West has suggested that he wanted to make a British spy film with Stratton but strangely so many concessions have been made the American audience. From the oddly placed American army officer and Connie Nielsen’s ludicrous British accent, to the unimaginative Eastern European villain. At times it can feel like Stratton is trying to incorporate every possible action film cliché.
It is hard to know who will actually watch Stratton. The production value isn’t high enough to attract fans of action blockbusters and the story isn’t good enough to make it stand out from any other half-baked spy film. Lots of action films can be ridiculous and full of plot holes but they do tend to be fun. This is the least that can be expected from Simon West who has made a career of doing just that. Ultimately the main issue with Stratton is not the poor script or lacklustre direction but that it is boring.
The only enjoyment that can be found with Stratton are the odd moments of unintentional humour. There is a creative understanding of the geographies of London that for some reason places Trafalgar Square right next to Camden High Street. While the portrayal of the Russian villain can at times be so unimaginative and stereotypical that it is actually funny.
Stratton is a James Bond knock off that manages to be just about watchable despite its poor dialogue, incoherent action sequences, and disappointing set pieces. The film is pretty forgettable and this is probably for the best.
Wyndham Hacket Pain @WyndhamHP
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