With terrorist attacks overseas unfortunately becoming more commonplace, haphazard espionage thrillers such as Unlocked start to feel more exploitative than provocative.

The latest film to latch on to Jason Bourne’s coattails might feel ripped from the headlines with its fictional account of a biological attack threatening Europe, but fails to realize that topical doesn’t automatically equal compelling.

Along the way, this incoherent and formulaic effort from veteran director Michael Apted (The World Is Not Enough) squanders talent on both sides of the camera.

The story follows Alice (Noomi Rapace), a tough-minded CIA interrogator whose confidence was shaken after she failed to stop a bridge attack in Paris a few years earlier. Although she expresses reservations to a former supervisor (Michael Douglas), her latest assignment takes her to London, where she infiltrates an Islamic terror cell and is called upon by a government official (John Malkovich) to pursue her leads further.

The resulting investigation makes Alice a target on various fronts, although she finds an ally in an MI5 chief (Toni Collette) and forms an unlikely partnership with a cat burglar (Orlando Bloom) trying to make amends. Several red herrings and perilous chases later, Alice realizes the masterminds behind an imminent attack might not be the usual suspects.

Rookie screenwriter Peter O’Brien provides a glimpse into the complexities of grassroots international terror networks and the coordinated effort to stop them, along with the broad sociopolitical ramifications at stake.

Yet the film basically jettisons any gritty real-world grounding in favor of preposterous ticking-clock thriller clichés, stereotypical characters, wild conspiracy theories, and standard-issue action sequences — driven by familiar themes of deception, betrayal, and international intrigue.

Rapace (whose breakthrough came in the original Swedish version of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) conveys a smart balance of strength and vulnerability as a resilient and resourceful heroine uncertain who she can trust, including authorities on both sides of the pond. Meanwhile, some of the experienced supporting players seem to be slumming for an easy paycheck in thankless roles.

Instead of ratcheting up the tension, the obligatory third-act twists make it more difficult to take this mess seriously. Perhaps the evidence of post-production tinkering is to blame. Whatever the culprit, Unlocked is uninspired.


Rated R, 98 minutes.