The Contractor will be available in theaters and on-demand in the U.S. on April 1, 2022.
For me, there is nothing in this world more important than protecting and providing for those I love most, which is exactly why Chris Pine’s new military drama The Contractor hits so close to home. Even if, like me, you can’t relate to the career background of Pine’s Special Forces Sergeant James Harper, there’s a lot that resonates in his painful story and the unfair cards he’s dealt, and Pine’s performance shines through as he carries the heavy weight of his character’s past on screen. Even though the ending and certain action scenes fell a little short of the high bar set by the rest of the film, James Harper’s journey remains a largely compelling one.
Refreshingly, instead of jumping straight into the action and explosions as some military thrillers tend to do, it spends nearly an hour setting the scene before a single bullet is fired. That time is spent introducing us to Pine’s James, his wife Brianne (Gillian Jacobs), and their son Jack (Sander Thomas), showing a loving family whose happy lifestyle is being threatened by ever-growing debt and an honorable discharge that James wanted no part in. Fans of edge-of-your-seat gun fights need not worry as The Contractor eventually has plenty of them, but the time it takes at the beginning grounds the story, the stakes, and it lends much more meaning to what happens next.
Even scenes that might play out as casual pillow talk demonstrate what’s at stake here, including one where Brianne and James discuss the death of a friend who was also in the military. It is presented as not some shocking revelation, but instead as a regular part of their lives, and the normalcy with which they talk about it makes it ever more disturbing.
It’s moments like these, coupled with shots of James and Jack playing in the backyard or being filmed by Brianne in the pool, that paint a picture of a family with a pretty universal want: to live their lives free of struggle and tragedy. It gives The Contractor a certain amount of relatability in what could’ve been instead have been 103 minutes of bullets flying with far fewer emotional stakes.
This effort is aided by its cast, and Pine was a more than worthy choice for the lead. Pine sinks with the weight of a life filled with pain — both mental and physical, in large part due to a severe knee injury and the fallout from a toxic relationship with a father he is trying not to become — and he portrays Harper’s heavy baggage wonderfully. He was also clearly up to the task when it came to the action scenes, as I never questioned whether he was a soldier who had committed his whole life to perfecting his lethal skills.
Ben Foster, who plays James’ best friend and former superior, is another standout in The Contractor. The chemistry between them that we’ve seen in prior collaborations like Hell or High Water is on full display here, selling a brotherly trust and banter that extends far beyond the story that’s on the surface.
I was left feeling conflicted as the credits rolled, and not in a great way.
Kiefer Sutherland, meanwhile, plays Rusty, the leader of a team running covert, off-the-book missions to protect national security alongside the seemingly lovely Spring Lake Coffee Roastery. It’s no fault of Sutherland’s, who, on the surface, fits perfectly into the role of a gruff and seasoned vet with a heart, but this character ends up as one of the film’s weaker aspects. Rusty doesn’t get enough screen time to become anything more than two-dimensional, standing as a pretty thin element in an otherwise layered story, which could also be said of the ending.
It’s hard to discuss without getting too deep into spoilers, but I was left feeling conflicted as the credits rolled, and not in a great way. The way it all wrapped up felt a little too tidy, and that’s not to say James and co. saw a happy or sad conclusion or anything in between. Instead, the final moments simply felt at odds with the rest of the film; it didn’t feel truly earned, happened way too quickly, and left little to imagination.
All that aside, the journey to that underwhelming conclusion is an exciting one, filled with mostly solid action, shocking twists, and a mirror that presents us with a simple question: are you sure everything is as it seems? It’s no spoiler to say that the answer is clearly no or we wouldn’t have much of a film, but there are plenty of surprises and adrenaline-filled moments that more than make up for that obvious truth.
On that note, while many of the action scenes carried the heft of a big-budget blockbuster, others weren’t quite as sleek, and briefly took me out of the immersion. There was one close-quarters fight in particular that gave me a headache with how many jump cuts there were, some of which would cut away too fast and return farther ahead than they logically should have. Another scene saw a veteran making a very questionable decision for someone of his experience level followed by a fist fight where a few blows that sounded like they hit the target clearly missed on screen.
In the end, however, The Contractor is more memorable for the focus it puts on the people and families impacted by war, and it’s all the better for it. While any particular fight in the movie might not be discussed years down the line, its message – one about the hard truths its characters are forced to learn, and the willingness to give everything for those you love – is timeless.
Author: Alex Stedman. [Source Link (*), IGN All]