This muddled look at mid-life crisis features a charming performance by Oscar-winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) as Wallace, an American businessman who decides to fake his death and start over with a new identity, meeting a drifter (Emily Blunt) in similar need of a fresh start. The ensuing road trip has its share of complications, mostly fueled by neuroses and uncertainty about the future. The screenplay lacks emotional depth and subtlety as it settles into a predictable pattern, and seems to lack confidence in its characters and concept. So despite some amusing lighthearted moments, the film stumbles when it attempts to be more profound. (Rated R, 93 minutes).
This unconventionally thrilling adaptation of the memoir by Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl compensates with visual flair what it lacks in intimate details. The film chronicles a 1947 quest by Heyerdahl (Pal Sverre Hagen) to sail more than 4,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean on a balsa-wood raft, in order to prove an anthropological theory about South Americans having settled in Polynesia centuries earlier. Heyerdahl’s original footage from the journey turned into a documentary a few years later, and his book became a best-seller. This film recreates the efforts of Heyerdahl and his five-man crew in grand style, with enough memorable moments to overcome its inevitable waterlogged flaws. (Rated PG-13, 118 minutes).
The Numbers Station
A potentially intriguing idea is thrown out the window in this predictable low-budget thriller about a disgraced CIA agent (John Cusack) who is assigned to protect a code operator (Malin Akerman) who broadcasts classified numeric messages over shortwave radio from a remote outpost. It seems like mundane work until an ambush by unknown forces threatens to compromise the mission and endanger their lives. The real-life concept of these numbers stations could have been compelling to explore, but instead the film turns into a standard action yarn without a hint of subtlety or suspense. Cusack again appears to be picking up a paycheck while remaining creatively indifferent. (Rated R, 89 minutes).
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Topical subject matter cannot save this ambitious political drama based on a Mohsin Hamid novel about culture clash and the American dream. It follows Changez (Riz Ahmed), a young Pakistani man in New York who finds a successful job as a Wall Street financier and finds companionship with an artist (Kate Hudson) in the days leading up to Sept. 11, 2001. Ahmed (Trishna) gives an emotionally powerful performance that outshines his more established American co-stars. Yet the film’s international intrigue is unlikely to resonate too closely with today’s headlines because of a conventional approach that alternates between a mechanical thriller and a shallow if provocative character study. (Rated R, 128 minutes).