Chief Of Station


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Chief Of Station
"It’s really Kurylenko's work that gives the film its emotional core, but action fans need not worry: she still delivers some impressive kicks, and gets to jump away from a petrol explosion."

As filmmaking has become cheaper in real terms, the action film genre has exploded. There are more and more of them out there, and in order to distinguish such a film and secure viewer attention, one really needs a star. The problem is that it’s not a genre which easily spawns its own stars – at least not below blockbuster level – so it has a tendency to keep working with the same ones, and they’re getting older. Aaron Eckhart is 56 now. He still has the moves, but casting him in straightforward action is going to get gradually less convincing. Espionage presents a good solution. It’s much easier to justify an older man getting caught up in violent situations in a profession where age has its own value – where knowledge, experience and connections mean there are things that only he can do.

In this case, Eckhart’s character, Ben, is moving towards the end of his career. Though the film opens with action, it’s soon established that he has completed his days as a chief of station and is looking forward to a quieter life, supporting his wife Farrah (Laëtitia Eïdo) as she reaches the pinnacle of her own career with the CIA. When he boasts about their relationship, however, it’s obvious what’s coming, and it take just four minutes to arrive. Director Jesse V Johnson is not a man who believes in wasting time.

Copy picture

Neither does he believe in being subtle. There must be a special deal on assassinations because whoever commissioned the deed gets dozens for the price of one. This means that Ben avoids the cliché of being a murder suspect – but he is suspected of knowing more about Farrah’s work than he’ll admit, and so his agency won’t back him in his quest to find out what happened to her. Naturally, this doesn’t stop him, and he starts tracking down others in the business – friends, foes and people whose allegiances are less clear – in his personal search for justice.

These include John (Alex Pettyfer), an information specialist who seems so universally competent that you may wonder why you’re not watching his story instead; Evgeny (Nick Moran), a dangerous agent who has valuable leads but also wants information from Ben; and Krystyna (Olga Kurylenko), who previously worked with Farrah. The latter is the standout, not just in terms of the way she fights (there’s some good work there from all concerned, though it could be better framed), but in the humanity that she manages to bring to her character – a good example of why it’s worth investing in acting talent even if most of what your stars are doing is running about. It’s really her work that gives the film its emotional core, but action fans need not worry: she still delivers some impressive kicks, and gets to jump away from a petrol explosion.

Eckhart works well enough in the lead, in a role which recalls his recent work in The Bricklayer. It’s difficult to believe, however, that Ben is actually bullet proof, and a scene in which he escapes a dozen trained men who are firing at him simply by running in the other direction stretches credulity to breaking point. There are other odd choices which suggest that the film has been assembled using elements from other genre works without much fresh appraisal. It doesn’t make sense that Ben wouldn’t recognise the risks of mixing family activities with business. It’s odd that his house is full of framed photographs of Farrah – who has those anymore? Then there’s the ending, which belongs to a pre-‘AI’ era, although other elements suggest that the action is taking place today.

All in all, this is a fairly routine genre entry which doesn’t offer many surprises, but it offers enough to pass the time for genre fans and Eckhart fans alike.

Reviewed on: 04 May 2024
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Chief Of Station packshot
After learning that the death of his wife was not an accident, a former CIA Station Chief is forced back into the espionage underworld, teaming up with an adversary to unravel a conspiracy that challenges everything he thought he knew.

Director: Jesse V Johnson

Writer: George Mahaffey

Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Olga Kurylenko, Alex Pettyfer, Chris Petrovski, Laëtitia Eïdo, Nick Moran

Year: 2024

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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