Sunday, January 11, 2015

In short: The Numbers Station (2013)

When CIA killer Emerson Kent (John Cusack) starts to show signs of a developing conscience, he is dispatched as “protection” to a numbers station. He’s there to take care of code broadcaster Katherine (Malin Akerman), a state of affairs the woman who hasn’t quite wrapped her head around what kind of world she is working in interprets as him being her bodyguard. As a matter of fact, it’s Kent’s job to kill Katherine in case of a security breach, protecting the one unbreachable line of communications the espionage business knows.

When that breach comes, though, Kent finds himself unable and unwilling to do what he’s supposed to do. Instead, the station gets into a minor siege situation, and it might just turn out that Kent acting like an actual human being – as well as Katherine being rather brilliant at her job – will save more lives than the more traditionally monstrous choice would.

Obviously, we’ve seen all the elements that make up Kasper Barfoed’s rather low key espionage thriller The Numbers Station before, but this is another film where the beauty and the success lie in the execution. Barfoed demonstrates a calm and secure control over his material that at the very least turns the film into something very much worth watching, where a viewer might know the borders inside of which the film operates very well, yet still find himself captivated. I at least did, appreciating Barfoed’s focused and methodical direction befitting a film centring around a usually focused and methodical character, the fact that he’s actually keeping the lost art of using colours in a meaningful way alive, and the excellent use he makes of a small yet fine cast and the handful of locations. There’s a real sense of concentration on display here, with no moment wasted on anything that isn’t important for the simple yet effective plot. On the other hand, the film never falls into the trap of giving its audience too little to work with.

Add to that the pleasant fact this is one of the film’s where John Cusack isn’t just showing up but actually giving his role a quiet intensity, and a strong performance of the kind that looks simpler than it actually is by Akerman, and you have a film that will probably not send many people raving with excitement but whose focus and steadiness are actually things one might find worth cherishing.

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