out of Five
Running time: 100
Engaging and enjoyable thriller, enlivened by a sharp script, pacey direction, solid action sequences and strong performances from both Aaron Eckhart and Liana Liberato.
What's it all about?
Directed by Philipp Stölzl, The Expatriate (US title: Erased) stars Aaron Eckhart as Ben Logan, an ex-CIA agent working as a security systems tester in Antwerp, Belgium, where he lives with his estranged teenage daughter Amy (Liana Liberato), who's recently come to live with him after the death of her mother. However, when Ben discovers that his employers have erased all evidence of his existence and put a hit-man on his trail, he is forced to go on the run with Amy and quickly uncovers evidence of a deadly conspiracy.
Aaron Eckhart displays a hitherto unsuspected aptitude for action thriller roles and duly delivers one of his best performances; he also has believable and engaging chemistry with Liberato, particularly when compared to the equivalent relationship in Liam Neeson's Taken movies.
Liberato is equally good, creating a likeable, fully-rounded character that transcends the usual teen-daughter-in-peril clichés. There's also strong support from Olga Kurylenko (as Ben's former colleague at the CIA) and Garrick Hagon as the sinister head of the global corporation at the heart of the conspiracy.
Stölzl (who made 2008's underrated mountain-climbing thriller North Face) keeps things moving at a decent pace throughout and makes strong use of some authentic (and little-seen on screen) European locations. He also knows his way around a decent action sequence; the fight scenes feel real and painful (this is a film where the leads actually bleed) and, unlike most current thrillers, don't resort to the kind of rapid editing where you can't tell who's hitting who.
On top of that, the script pays careful attention to both character and plot and makes strong, affecting emotional currency out of Amy's shocked reaction to discovering her dad's real job. In addition, Stölzl has a real eye for casting, with several of the supporting players falling into the category of memorable grotesques.
Essentially, The Expatriate feels like a distilled version of the best bits of recent Liam Neeson thrillers Unknown and Taken, only with a better plot and without the latter's fetish for extreme violence. At any rate, it's a damn sight better than most recent American thrillers. Highly recommended, if you like this sort of thing.