Chris Pine has traveled the stars as Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek and brought comic book characters to life as both Wonder Woman’s Steve Trevor and Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but his latest adventure in The Contractor as Special Forces Sergeant James Harper has brought him back to our world as a man grappling with being abandoned by the country he spent his whole life serving.
It’s a much more personal journey for Pine and, ahead of The Contractor’s theatrical release on April 1, he talked with IGN about why he chose the role and why the film’s message about our veterans is one we should all take to heart.
In The Contractor, Pine’s Harper has to not only deal with a severe knee injury from his time in the service and the mental and physical scars from his relationship with a father he is trying not to become, but also with the fallout of an honorable discharge he wanted no part in that also came with the loss of his pension.
Almost as soon as he walks out the door, he is hounded by calls from private contractors who have been waiting in the wings to promise him – and others like him – a chance for a new career that comes with a much larger paycheck and the chance to protect national security. While he isn’t sold at first, the ever-growing debt his family is facing forces his hand to do what he does best, even though he is being exploited by those who need his set of very specific skills.
This long preamble helps convey that we go nearly an hour into The Contractor before one bullet is fired. This is an action thriller, but Pine was attracted to the role because it took its time to get to the firefights and combat in order to build the foundation of who James Harper is and examine what happens to our soldiers after they leave the armed forces, by their choice or not.
“What set it apart really was 60 minutes that’s just the set-up of a family and a family man,” Pine said. “You don’t get that often in action films. On the surface, it’s very similar.. you’ve seen films like it before. It’s a genre piece, it’s an action thriller, but there were a couple of images in it and a refrain that young James has [with his father who also served] that says, ‘how far do you go, sir? How far do you go?’ And that always resonated in my brain.”
The original ending of the film also helped convince him to take the job, as he immediately knew this wasn’t a typical, by-the-numbers action film.
“There was an image at the end of the original film… we changed it but… In the script, James, at the end, is in this murky water and he’s looking at this oil refinery and he’s in some Central American country operating and he sees a crunched coke can floating by in dirty water,” Pine explained. “I said, well, whatever this writer is trying to get at, he’s getting at something pretty deep, and pretty interesting, and I wanted to investigate that.”
And investigate he did. After he agreed to the role, Pine wanted to do all he could to bring James Harper to life on the big screen. To do so, he spent “three-and-a-half months or so” training in close-quarters combat and weapon proficiency. While he understood he could never truly understand what it was like to be in combat or war, he wanted his performance to be as real and believable as possible.
“That was really, really difficult,” Pine said of his training. “And being shot at with fake bullets was terrifying. It’s about as close as I could get to feeling what it would be like to be in a warzone, which is pretty far off from the real thing.
“Unless you’ve experienced war, death, mayhem, violence… committed it and experienced people dying and being executed… there’s very little you can do to do it, but you just try to fill your brain up with as much experience from other people that you can.”
Another top-priority mission for Pine was to bring his Hell or High Water co-star Ben Foster on board as his brother-in-arms, Mike Denton. Despite it initially looking as though Foster would be too busy to join Pine, it all worked out in the end.
“I called Ben up and desperately wanted him to do it, but he was busy and it didn’t look like he was going to make it work, but I really wanted to make it happen,” Pine said. “On the page, Mike isn’t as fleshed out as an actor would hope for maybe, but Ben got in there and ripped it apart and picked at it and investigated it and interrogated it and came out with a fully three-dimensional character. It’s a joy to work with someone with who you have a shorthand, where you can just show up to set and rock and roll.”
As to what Pine hopes viewers will take from the film, he wants us to take the time to think about what happens to veterans after they leave the military and what it means to be an American, a father, and so much more.
“I want people to think about what we do to our veterans and how we treat them,” Pine said. “What we do to men and women who we train to kill after their time in warzones are over. The mental health of our veterans. The ideas of freedom and democracy and what it means to be an American, what it means to be a man, what it means to be a male warrior, and what it means to raise a boy. These are all things I want people to take away from it.”
As we wrapped up our conversation, I asked Pine how he felt about the casting of The Vampire Diaries’ Paul Wesley as James T. Kirk in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. We won’t see him until season 2, but Pine had some encouraging words for the actor anyway.
“I’m excited for another team member, and I wish him all the luck in the world and I hope he knocks it out of the park,” Pine said with a smile.
The Contractor will be released in theaters on April 1, 2022. In our review, we said that it “may have an underwhelming conclusion, but the journey to get there is an emotional one, with a strong performance by Chris Pine.”
Author: Adam Bankhurst. [Source Link (*), IGN All]