Retribution – movie review

 There’s barely a moment’s let-up in the tense, action thriller Retribution.

Matt Turner (Liam Neeson) has worked as a financier for Nanite Capital for 18 years under its CEO Anders Muller (Matthew Modine). Work drives Turner. He and his family live in luxury in Berlin and he drives a luxury car. He has little time for his wife, Heather (Embeth Davidtz) or his two children, daughter Emily (Lilly Aspell) and older son Zach (Jack Champion).

One of the firm’s important clients is looking to pull out of a major investment, and Muller knows he can rely on Turner to turn him around. Distracted by work, as usual, and reluctantly driving his children to school – with Zach a particular handful – everything changes for Turner. He receives a call from a withheld number on a mobile phone that’s been planted in his new Mercedes SUV. A distorted voice indicates the financial guru must follow his instructions to the letter. Otherwise, he’ll denote a pressure bomb under Turner’s seat.

Neither Turner, nor the children, can leave the vehicle … and from there the stakes ratchet up. The caller goes to further extremes to show that he means business; which involves implicating Turner in what is going down. The situation leads to a manhunt, led by Europol, the law enforcement agency of the European Union. The caller is out to expose Nanite Capital’s dirty dealings and claim a rich payday.

Retribution hits the mark from the get-go in terms of the visuals, which soon emerge as extreme close-ups of the car bomb being set up. Written by Chris Salmanpour, it’s based on the 2015 Spanish/French film El Desconocido and features a number of twists.

Liam Neeson is in his element in a pressure cooker cinematic environment. With Turner’s life – and that of his children – on the line, he must try to think and talk his way out of the most invidious of circumstances. The angst on Neeson’s face is telling. In fact, facial expressions, let alone sound, play a significant part in Retribution. Heather’s obvious frustration with a never really present husband is obvious. Embeth Davidtz plays that well. I was impressed by Lilly Aspell as Turner’s keen to please daughter.  She comes across as authentic, while Jack Champion – as her brother – channels teen dismissive angst.

I was reminded of other movies set primarily in confined spaces, such as Phone Booth and Room. The claustrophobia is aided by fine camerawork from Flavio Martinez Labiano (Jungle Cruise) and music from Harry Gregson-Williams (House of Gucci).

Retribution is edge-of-your-seat fare. With strong direction from Nimrod Antal (Predators), Retribution is one of the better examples of the genre.

Alex First

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