Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune
Director Michael Apted has been making films since 1963: documentaries, TV series, Bond films, thrillers, fantasies. His skill is chameleon-like; his ease with a variety of genres obvious. We're in steady, good hands for the juicy terrorism thriller "Unlocked," starring Swedish actress Noomi Rapace, who has the aura of a very beautiful and lithe battering ram. Her high-cheekboned face is placid, though it's obvious she can hurt people very badly if given a good enough reason.
In the twisty tale of "Unlocked," Rapace plays Alice Racine, a former CIA interrogator recruited as a young, rebellious teenager to the organization. She's hung up her interrogating gloves for the moment, reeling from the trauma of failing to stop a 2012 attack in Paris. But in a crucial moment, she's called back to duty, to interrogate a young Muslim messenger of a powerful imam in London. Soon the question becomes not what kind of information she can produce from her suspect, but who exactly is asking her to produce this information.
Alice, understandably, has trust issues. She's highly vigilant, and unwilling to trust most people -- not the twitchy, chain-smoking agent who brought her in to interview the suspect, not the burglar she catches nicking the TV from her safe house (Orlando Bloom), and rarely the MI-6 agent she collaborates with (Toni Collette). As we come to find out, trust is a rare commodity and Alice is right to dole it out carefully.
The cast of "Unlocked" is stacked with all-star players -- John Malkovich tears up the scenery in his role as a top agent at Langley. He shares a memorable video chat with a platinum pixie-shorn Collette, who has lately been embracing the charms of genre films, and they're all the better for her talents. Michael Douglas also appears as one of Alice's longtime confidants.
Everyone around Rapace is colorful and over the top, which allows her to give the spare, neat performance at which she excels, which fits the character of this type. It's the kind of efficient and physically powerful performance that harks back to Matt Damon in the "Bourne" franchise. It would be a welcome treat to watch the Alice Racine chronicles, as she travels around Europe taking out terrorist cells with her combination of interrogation and combat skills.
What's also refreshing about "Unlocked" is its willingness to not stereotype or condemn immigrants or people of color as terrorists. Alice works to understand the imam and his messengers, and brings a young Egyptian cab driver under her wing to help with this mission. The true terrorists, she finds, are much larger and more influential than just these small religious cells -- these are killers who sacrifice innocent lives for political gain, not to prove a religious point.
With its unexpected story and businesslike filmmaking, "Unlocked" proves to be a satisfying thriller starring one of the most exciting current female action stars, who toils and shines in these workmanlike roles. We'd be more than happy to see more of Alice Racine, and always Noomi Rapace, for that matter.
MPAA rating: R (for violence and language).
Running time: 1:38