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April 15, 2012


Capsule Movie Review – Lockout (2012)


Roger Ebert likes to use the term “Idiot Plot” to describe stories where the characters act like idiots at key plot junctures because if they didn’t, the movie would be over. Lockout has an Imbecile Plot: every person involved in the design, construction, and operation of the easily almost instantaneously irretrievably hijacked maximum security space station prison must have been a total imbecile. Terrestrial city jails of today are more secure and they pose no danger of falling out of the sky onto the eastern seaboard. Operating at mere idiot level, the secret service detail that miserably fails to protect visiting first daughter turned hostage Emilie (Maggie Grace) looks good by comparison. Fortunately for her, the psycho rapists and murderers running the riot are almost as stupid as their jailers. Even luckier that Snake Plissken- I mean, recently framed-for-murder and sentenced without trial to 30 years in cryogenic sleep without the possibility of parole ex-spy Snow (Guy Pearce) is available for the rescue operation. Did I mention it’s a dystopian future America where the Constitution has been shredded and evil corporations rule from the shadows? No one involved in the design or operation of this movie can be accused of originality, yet it’s not as bad as it sounds. Pearce can’t make the movie good but he does make it consistently watchable. One of writer-producer Luc Besson’s most appealing damsels in distress, Emilie takes an atypically active role in her own rescue and hardly cries at all (plus no raccoon eyes… a Besson first?). The CG flying machines fail to impress, but the down and dirty action on the station is decently staged and moves at a good clip. There’s a welcome thread of humor throughout in throwaway visual jokes and John McClaneesque banter. The earthbound finale is surprisingly good. I’d rather have a good set-up and a good ending, but if I have to choose I’ll take the one I walk away on.

2 stars

One thing I liked and one thing I didn’t like: The short but sweet starter chase in the metro. The “wake everybody up” button in the unguarded control room.

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ken
    Apr 15 2012

    I’m usually a sucker for “dark future” sci-fi, but I think I will save some money and catch this on Netflix. You are mirroring another review I read, that pegs this as a “good-bad movie”. You want to say it totally sucks, but it does have some redeeming features scattered through the mess. Not enough to make it good.

    Speaking of which, can you think of any “bright future” sci-fi that has come out in the past decade or so. There should be some, but I’m drawing a blank right now.

  2. Apr 16 2012

    That’s a tough one. The future is bleak in sci-fi movies. If it isn’t dystopian then the planet is dying. The “Star Trek” reboot retained the Federation, but outside of that (and the Star Trek: TNG series) the only bright future movies I’ve been able to think of are “Mission to Mars”, where things are pretty much the same as they are now but with more advanced space age technology, and “Speed Racer”, which needed to be set in the future so they could have gravity-defying cars.

  3. Apr 16 2012

    Look at Metropolis (1927): everyone is happy upstairs and nobody complains downstairs (much like in the novel 1984 because there was no point in complaining). Everything was just peachy until Freder and Maria flipped the whole city upside down with their revolution. Those wascally kids!

    But I kid. It was for the greater good. :O)

    Even in “Minority Report” (2002) everything was peachy until people found out that not only is the government arresting innocent people but that one can actually cheat the system.

    Science fiction is synonymous with potential disaster, dystopian futures, and flying cars (or jet packs; take your pick). If everything would work out just fine then we’d have utterly ordinary movies (potentially interesting, though) but in future settings. I don’t really see a downside to that, though. I think that filmmakers should start focusing their traditional dramas onto other time periods and see where it takes us.

  4. Apr 16 2012

    Scratch a utopia and you’ll find a dystopia.

  5. Apr 17 2012

    @Helen, like in “Equilibrium” when John Preston scratches that grey filter off from his bedside window and the view reveals a beautiful, albeit grey that’s city complemented by a flying dirigible and a rainbow. :O)

  6. Aaron Ploof
    Apr 17 2012

    I love Equilibrium, one of my favorite dystopian films. But Blade Runner definitely tops it out, and Dark City is close behind.

  7. Apr 17 2012

    All great classics. “Blade Runner” had actually, recently, become my second favourite film of all time. :O)

  8. Aaron
    Apr 17 2012

    Did you guys see “Never Let Me Go?”

    I remember enjoying that one quite a lot.

  9. Apr 18 2012

    I think Nir did. The story looked so profoundly depressing that I was scared off. I remember the performances drawing really good notices though.

  10. Apr 18 2012

    I watched 35 minutes of it and then shut it off. I had no idea what was happening the entire time. Characters were talking but nothing made any sense to me and when I researched the film online I found out that most people that’d watched it found it to be unbearably slow and uninteresting. I also found that to be the case because aside from the film’s premise, nothing much happened.