Making the Grades
The briefcase has always been a staple of good spy movies. But today, with the Internet and memory chips, it’s been a while since we’ve had a good ‘ol fashioned “secret in a case” script. Enter The Cold Light of Day, where a mysterious attaché causes no end of trouble for a young man named Will (Henry Cavill).
His parents, Martin and Laurie (Bruce Willis and Caroline Goodall) are finally taking a family vacation together in Spain. Joining them on the sailboat is their youngest son Josh (Rafi Gavron), his girlfriend Dara (Emma Hamilton) and a very preoccupied Will. Coaxed by his father to leave his struggling business behind in San Francisco, he is tethered to his cell phone every moment. When asked by his frustrated father to steer the boat for a few minutes, Will’s “crackberry” distraction results in an accident that leaves Dara with a large gash on her forehead and his beloved Blackberry downing in the sea—thanks to a mighty throw from the seething skipper.
Quickly volunteering to swim to shore to get medication, Will is happy to have some time alone. However, by the time he finally returns to the craft there are definite signs of a struggle and no indication of where his family has gone. Fully engaged now, Will contacts the police, but that proves to be no help. Instead the officers attempt to abduct the young man after the mention of his father’s name.
That’s when Martin suddenly shows up, beats the cops to a pulp, rescues his son and then reveals a big secret: His “cultural” position at the U.S. Embassy is a cover for his CIA employment. However, except for the mention of the briefcase, not much about their present situation is explained in any detail before Martin makes a mysterious visit to an equally mysterious woman named Carrack (Sigourney Weaver). When he is shot moments later, Will is forced to flee for his life with a long list of unanswered questions and no idea how to rescue his family.
A vast portion of the production budget of this movie must have gone into ammunition effects. Bullets riddle the screen after Martin’s demise and hardly a character isn’t shot at least once. All this carnage, along with an explicit attempt to control a bleeding wound, results in frequent gory scenes. When they aren’t shooting they’re punching one another, especially during interrogations. On one of these occasions our heroic protagonist is boxed in the face so many times he starts making … wisecracks. (We’re not sure if this is a signal from the director that the film has crossed the line to parody or if Will is suffering from a concussion.) Even the car chases in this film seem to go on forever, with law enforcers conveniently non-existent while bystanders run for cover.
With all this fighting there’s no time for sex. Still, you can expect to hear moderate amounts of language including a single sexual expletive.
Sadly if you’re seeking a “good” old-fashioned spy script you will need to keep searching. Perhaps Sigourney Weaver, who is stuck with some of the worst lines of her career, sums it up best near the end of this romp when she says, “That’s it… I’m getting sick of this.”
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Cold Light of Day.
How has technology changed the spy movie genre? Do you think new gadgets and communication tools have made it easier or more difficult to create a good spy thriller?