There is no doubt that Chris Pine is a fine actor who can carry the weight of an entire film on his shoulders. The whole Star Trek franchise is proof of that, and so are his other flicks. However, for that to happen, the film has to be equal to his stature, and sadly Tarik Saleh’s The Contractor isn’t such a film. It does highlight the plight of those soldiers who are left on their own, but the way it tackles the issue fails to impress the audience.
Here, Chris Pine plays James Harper who is a decorated army officer who got injured in the line of duty. However, instead of being appreciated for his services, and his rehabilitation progress, he is discharged without a paycheck, and without a pension for taking unsanctioned meds. Now in an ideal world, such things would have led Bruce Willis on a path against the US Army, but here we have Chris Pine, who even plays the ‘damsel in distress’ in the Wonder Woman franchise.
James Harper (Chris Pine) was on the verge of doing something stupid when he meets his friend Mike (Ben Foster) at another friend’s funeral after which he goes to Mike’s place, only to be left impressed by the sudden change in his lifestyle. Mike then introduces James to the man responsible for his good luck – his boss Rusty (Kiefer Sutherland). Rusty immediately takes a liking to James, telling him that he was once in the same place as he is, and immediately recruits him for a mission ‘of national security’.
Once the mission is accomplished, James realizes that he has been made to kill a good man who was developing a cure, not a virus, and that’s where the soldier takes over. In Tarik Saleh’s action thriller, action arrives after an hour which in the year 2022 is as good as no action. Yes, had the film been made in the 1980s, it would have spawned sequels; had it been released in the 1990s, the audience would have appreciated it for its relatability. But releasing it in 2022 when ‘Mission Impossible’ movies has set the bar high, The Contractor is nothing but a disappointment.
Written by J.P. Davis, The Contractor tries to do Bourne but hardly reaches the level of the worst film in the Bourne franchise. While Jason Bourne has no recollection of the past, yet knows what he has to do to save himself, Chris Pine’s Harper neither has a past to be proud of nor does he see a perfect future. The legacy of the military father was a distraction, like everything else in the film. It was as if the director was searching for a genre and decided to add drama, suspense, thrill to the action to give it a long-lasting effect.
Yes, Chris Pine’s character might have been wronged every time he has tried to do the right thing – the rehab, the bills, the mission – but if he always ends up on the wrong side, shouldn’t he be blamed for being naïve? The film revolves mostly around Chris Pine who is at ease while doing the action scenes and the dramatic ones, but when things become tough, he literally takes it on his leg. Ben Foster – his co-star in Hell or High Water – also makes his presence felt but he hardly has any solo scenes, just like Kiefer Sutherland who keeps playing the shady guy in films, which is the exact opposite of his TV persona.
The scene where Pine and Foster escape the German police is the best sequence in the entire film; not because it doesn’t have any dialogue but because the actors make it work without saying anything. When the script has issues, a good director can resolve them easily and move forward but when both the writer and the director are clueless, the result is The Contractor. The last one hour of the film is so predictable that one can close one’s eyes and predict correctly. The wronged hero makes it back, thanks to an anonymous friend, and then decides to take revenge like Rambo, but Rambo didn’t have a family that received compensation in his absence, right? Where does that leave the good old soldier then?
The only good thing besides one action sequence is the portrayal of Muslims in the film, the scientist Salim Mohsin (Fares Fares) James Harper, and his friends are assigned to terminate in Berlin is shown as Harvard-educated virologist who was developing a cure when he was terminated. Otherwise, the film has nothing else worth remembering, except that there was no one in the cinema beside me!
On paper, The Contractor would have looked great since it had everything a good action-thriller needs – it tackled soldier issues, handled class discrimination, and displayed profiteering by Big Pharma — but despite every check box ticked, it failed to hit the target. A little more time would have helped the film, which came and faded away without leaving a mark at the box office, because of its inability to grasp the audience’s attention, when it mattered the most.