– Summary –
Director : Phillip Stolzl
Year Of Release : 2012
Principal Cast : Aaron Eckhart, Olga Kurylenko, Liana Liberato, Neil Napier, Alexander Fehling, Garrick Hagon, Debbie Wong.
Approx Running Time : 120 Minutes
Synopsis: A CIA agent must uncover the truth behind an international conspiracy involving a transport magnate and the CIA itself – after being scheduled to be “delisted”, the agent must keep his daughter safe from those who would seek to silence him.
What we think : Bog-standard espionage thriller offers little in the way of surprise, save perhaps for Aaron Eckhart’s charisma-free portrayal of a CIA agent left to burn in Antwerp. The action feels forced, the plot meanders when it should sprint, and you get the sense that it’s all a lot of happening for nothing whatsoever. Erased is hackneyed, dreary and dull, although the occasional moment of clarity in amongst the shadowy Brussels, Antwerp and other stunning Belgian locales makes it at least passable, if not entirely entertaining.
And he was Bourne, Bourne to be alike.
When you figure the roster for an action film, or perhaps one involving fisticuffs and gunfire through the streets of major European cities, you might not have Aaron Eckhart at the top of your “go-to” list of actors to fill top spot. Come to think of it, I think the only action stunts I’ve ever seen Eckhart perform was riding a motorcycle with Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich. The Dark Knight’s Harvey Dent tries his hand at Jason Bourne here, and mostly fails to nail either the role or the movie. Erased – aka The Expatriate – sounds good on paper (don’t they all?) but the nett result is a film of middling potential and a wasted opportunity to be really good.
Ben Logan (Aaron Eckhart) is an undercover CIA agent working for a security firm in Belgium, when his company is suddenly dissolved, along with his history and identity. Together with his estranged daughter, Amy (Liana Liberato), Ben tracks down the reasons for his apparent termination and learns of a far-reaching international conspiracy, one which leads to a traitor within the CIA. His former ally, CIA agent Anna Bandt (Olga Kurylenko) is tasked with bringing Ben in, but he cannot trust her.
Erased is a film with multiple issues, issues which plague its tedious 2 hour running time to the point where you’re willing to switch off and go mow a lawn. For a start, the characters lack any kind of credibility whatsoever, and feel as generic as the Harry Gregson-Williams score – wait, HGW didn’t write the score? Good Lord, it certainly sounded like it! Anyway, Erased’s simplistic characters and convoluted (yet inane) plot feels a second hand as a hundred year-old pair of shoes. It’s like the writers have cribbed all their ideas from some of the best espionage films and wrapped some extraneous characters into the narrative. The plotting of Aaron Eckhart’s Ben, who transforms from middle-aged science dude into Ethan Hunt-lite within about 30 minutes, lacks impetus or intellect; his character is merely a tool to transition from one set-piece to another with the rapidity the lethargic direction will allow. Indeed, much of Erased hangs on the pacing, and this film has a consistent lack of energy from virtually frame one.
The cast, hamstrung by such generic film-making, are roundly competent if consistently unremarkable. Aaron Eckhart looks like he never broke a bead of sweat throughout filming, and at times it’s his puzzling indifference to the film that keeps it relegated at B-movie level. Eckhart’s not one for phoning in a performance, yet he can’t seem to imbue his character – or the film – with any kind of legitimacy. He just looked….. half-hearted, really. Olga Kurylenko, as one of the key antagonists (or is she?) in the story, goes for Ice Queen and never quite nails it; she’s too sexy to be a leading CIA agent and lacks the screen charisma to be truly menacing where required. Liana Liberato does well with a nothing role as Ben’s daughter, Amy, a head-strong and capable teen who doesn’t trust (or even like) her father, until his true colors start to show. Liberato has a beefy role, and to a degree I’d say she did well, but that’s probably more an indictment on Eckhart’s less-than-stellar performance than her own. The rest of the film is populated by typically nameless Euro-trash villains, most of whom blend into a faceless whole after several double-crosses and plot twists – Erased is like an endurance test for mind-numbing inanity, and a lackluster cast doesn’t help.
So what is good about Erased? Well, not a great deal, unfortunately. With a temporarily diverting plot that paints by numbers, a cast of 1-dimensional characters, and an energy-free pace, Erased lumbers along without any kind of point. What little tension there is is mitigated by a complete disinterest by the audience – I never once felt that Eckhart’s character was in jeopardy, never once felt like he was struggling to figure things out, never once felt any sense of urgency or intrigue being developed beyond the lazy, half-cooked script. Yeah, I guess the film was diverting enough for an hour or so, but this films two-hour slog felt interminable. By the time the comeuppance Ben dishes out happened, I’d long since lost interest. Which is a shame, because Eckhart deserved better. Hell, we all deserved better. Go into Erased with the knowledge that it’s mediocre at best, and you may just enjoy it as a Sunday afternoon time-waster. Expect much else, and you’ll come away disappointed.