Philipp Stölzl’s The Expatriate is not the first film in recent months to present a story of a father and child let loose in a European city, doing all that is necessary to defeat the evil forces fighting against them. However, unlike Taken 2 and A Good Day to Die Hard, The Expatriate feels somewhat more genuine, with a clear attempt to tell a clever story and not fully reliant on the already established franchise, with the job of winning over audiences rather than simply trading on past glories.
Having moved from America to Belgium, ex-CIA agent Ben Logan (Aaron Eckhart) and his teenage daughter Amy (Liana Liberato) find themselves in a spot of bother when the former travels into work one day only to find his entire company doesn’t exist – and no record of his own existence can be traced. Any initial confusion soon turns to fear and trepidation, as the pair soon realise they are being targeted when Ben’s fellow colleagues are found dead. On the run from a group of assassins, Ben and Amy must now discover why they are being pursued, and Ben must use his CIA skill-set to steer them away from danger and to get to the bottom of this conspiracy – beginning with former lover and operative Anna Brandt (Olga Kurylenko).
The concept itself is a good one – that of a man one day waking up to discover that nothing he thought was real actually is, and he is in fact part of a grand conspiracy he needs to unravel – a film not too dissimilar to that of the Bourne series. Stölzl’s effort is certainly an ambitious one, with an intricate and complex story that pieces itself together well. However, a lack of emotional investment from either of the two leads prevents the viewer from fully becoming involved in this story.
That isn’t to take anything away from the performances, as both Eckhart and Kurylenko impress, but we don’t delve deep enough into Ben or Amy’s past, and a lack of background knowledge prevents the opportunity of fully appreciating our protagonists and therefore rooting for their survival. Another fault with this title – this time from a more technical perspective – is the highly intrusive use of music. Stölzl has implemented a very bass heavy score that interferes too clumsily with the overall mood, carelessly playing over the top of the dialogue. At times it’s as though Eckhart has walked up to you and attempted to strike up a conversation in a night club.
Although telling a decent story, on the whole The Expatriate is ultimately rather forgettable – not to mention the frustrating predictability of the narrative. Nonetheless, Stölzl must be commended in a sense, as this is a far better offering that either A Good Day to Die Hard or Taken 2 – perhaps not saying too much, but a compliment nonetheless given the relatively modest budget in comparison: a budget that may be at least a third the size as the aforementioned, but certainly a more rounded, and well crafted finished product.