“SAS: Red Notice” stars Sam Heughan, Ruby Rose, Andy Serkis, Hannah John-Kamen, Tom Hopper, Noel Clarke, Owain Yeoman, Ray Panthaki, Anne Reid, and Tom Wilkinson. Released in the United Kingdom on March 12, 2021, the film has a Special Forces operator battling an army of mercenaries.
The film was directed by Magnus Martens, who also directed “United” and “Jackpot”. It is based on the novel of the same name by Andy McNab. I’m supposed to start this review off with something remarkable about this film, but unfortunately, I have no idea how. So let’s just cut to the chase, shall we? This weekend sees a lack of well-known big movies for me to check out, possibly due to the pandemic forcing studios to play musical chairs with their release date changes. To fill that void, I decided to take a look at a film that not a lot of people have noticed, especially me. This latest action thriller is an adaptation of one of the fictional novels written by Andy McNab, a former British Army infantry soldier. So there might be some authenticity within its world of Special Air Service. It made its debut in the United Kingdom last month by Sky Cinema, followed by a U.S. release this weekend. Luckily for me, my closest cinema was one of the very few theaters to get it. This was one of the perfect excuses for me to go check it out, with the other being the fact that I was in a mood for some thrills. With that said, let’s see if this mission is a success or a colossal failure.
The story centers on Tom Buckingham (Heughan), a Special Forces operator who is taking his girlfriend Dr. Sophie Hart (John-Kamen) to Paris via train to propose. What seems to be a smooth and relaxing trip through the Channel Tunnel immediately transitioned into a stressful and dangerous one. A team of heavily armed mercenaries, lead by Grace Lewis (Rose), infiltrate the train and hold its passengers hostage. They threaten to blow up the Channel Tunnel and expose the British government’s secrets if their ransom demands are not met. With no weapons at his disposal and no counter-terror team by his side, Tom will have to outsmart Grace and her team and rescue the passengers, including Sophie. There’s no denying that the plot has the same formula as the other thrillers that involve terrorists hijacking something. Think of it as an unofficial “Die Hard” film, but instead of Bruce Willis coming in to save the day, it’s Jamie Fraser from “Outlander”. I will admit that the film accomplished its mission in providing some thrills in its formulaic scenario, but sadly, it didn’t offer anything else beyond that. After getting off to a promising start, the film quickly derailed itself into mediocrity with a narrative that’s unnecessary overlong and surprisingly underwhelming. For a movie that’s as simple as cracking an egg, I don’t think it needed to be two hours long. I would be okay with it being an hour and 40 minutes, but two hours? Especially with a script that’s both subpar and a bit convoluted? That’s going to put a damper on those who wanted a fun and straightforward action thriller and nothing else. Even the characters themselves didn’t carry that much of an interest. The cast managed to do what they can with their performances, including Sam Heughan and Ruby Rose as Tom and Grace, respectively. Unfortunately, they weren’t enough to inject some depth into their uninspiring characters, especially the relationship between Tom and Sophie. Not even the great Andy Serkis can help save his character from being dull. Admittedly, I will give it some credit in delivering some suitably directed action sequences. None of them were highly memorable, of course, especially when taking the cheap-looking explosion near the third act into account. Still, they were thrilling enough to watch due to the editing and camerawork.
Overall, “SAS: Red Notice” has its share of thrills, as one would expect from a Special Forces-related action film. Sadly, its execution towards its by-the-numbers story makes this mission easily forgettable. It’s not the worst film I’ve seen as I thought the cast and the action were tolerable at best, but it’s also not a fun watch, either. With its formulaic plot, mediocre characters, and stretched-out runtime, the film failed to rescue its audience from the dangers of blandness. This is something that might’ve been more appropriate if it was released on a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu instead of in theaters.