The year is 2079 and a convicted felon who answers only to his surname, Snow, is the only shot the Secret Service has to free the President’s daughter from a hostage situation aboard a space prison full of the worst of Earth’s criminals. He has limited time, an ulterior motive and a sarcastic wit. If you are thinking I meant to say Snake Plissken is the only shot they have, your confusion would be understandable. However similar to the Escape from (insert city here) plot this may be, the film’s credits mention more than once that this movie is based on an original idea and screenplay by Luc Besson. They really don’t want you make comparisons, but it is impossible not to.
Nitpicking over originality aside, Lockout is a fun movie to watch. As an action film it moves quickly, has no boring lags or slow scenes and the hero and villains are gritty and strong enough to satisfy. As a sci-fi movie, Lockout is set primarily in space and has just enough of a futuristic look to make it plausible that while this is the future and we’ve managed to put a prison into orbit (considering the International Space Station, this really isn’t as farfetched as it may seem) it is not so far from now that we are unrecognizable as a society, politics have not changed overmuch, clothing has not altered in appearance and a handgun is still a handgun.
Guy Pearce is Snow, a wise-cracking ex-CIA agent who is unjustly accused and convicted of a murder which fast-tracks him to MS One, the space prison where murderers and rapists are sent to spend their incarceration in stasis. Maggie Grace, as Emilie Warnock, the daughter of the President of the United States visits MS One on a humanitarian mission to review prison conditions and ensure humane treatment of inmates. Predictably, things go horribly wrong; the inmates riot, the President’s daughter is taken hostage and the only ace we have is Snow. He is crafty, lethal and expendable. Snow must navigate a prison overrun with psychotic criminals, rescue Emilie Warnock, avoid being caught and killed by the crazed inmates while also succeeding in his ulterior motive: finding something aboard MS One that may clear his name. This results in the expected gunplay, clever escapes, violent altercations and the ubiquitous plot twist (that you see coming pretty early on).
Aboard MS One our chief villain and leader of the inmate uprising is Alex (Vincent Regan). Regan does a fantastic job as an intelligent and plotting criminal who sees the big picture and knows exactly what to demand in return for release. He is calm and direct, dealing out violence and retribution swiftly and with little emotion. His opposite is the unpredictable, volatile and mad inmate Hydell (Joseph Gilgun). Hydell is a loose cannon, dangerous to all – convict, prison guard and political entourage alike. I was unfamiliar with Joseph Gilgun prior to this role and his filmography and experience are indeed limited. I believe that this will change after this role. I have not seen someone play crazy as well since Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys.
Guy Pearce as Snow is sarcastic, drops one-liners every time he opens his mouth and makes an effort (unsuccessfully) to be unlikable. I saw this character as a hybrid mix of Snake Plissken (Escape From…) and John McClane (Die Hard) – not original but enjoyable nonetheless. He does a good job in the role and is still what he has always been – an actor who occasionally does something amazing (Memento, Hurt Locker) and in between pushes out forgettable roles that pay the bills and keep him eternally on the B list.
Maggie Grace is the film’s weak link, her character is inconsistent. She depicts a strong and independent woman when interacting with her White House entourage, is weak and weepy when accosted by convicts, comes on too aggressively with manipulation and bullying during the rescue, is hard as nails when making difficult decisions, shocked, disbelieving and sorrowful when duped and when she attempts humor, the lines fall flat and seemed forced. I find Grace to be very expressive and normally like her, which is why I blame the writing, not the actor.
This film isn’t going to win any awards for sound, set design or costumes. I also anticipate the acting being overlooked but both Vincent Regan and Joseph Gilgun are deserving of a nod for supporting roles. I don’t say that lightly – I love this kind of movie for exactly what it is – a fun romp that you don’t have to think too deeply about. It is uncomplicated, you don’t feel cheated out of the ticket price when you walk out of the theater and it holds up well in repeat viewings when it hits cable or DVD. When you see stellar acting come out of a film of this nature, you recognize it immediately because it is so unexpected.
Overall the film is fun and watchable. It is violent but not gory. The prisoner’s actions are aggressive but the language is not vulgar. Go, enjoy it for what it is – predictable but entertaining – you won’t be disappointed.