Based on the best-selling 1977 novel of the same name by Howard Kaplan, Jonathan Rhys Meyers takes the lead in Damascus Cover, a spy thriller set in the 80’s.
Meyers (Mission: Impossible III, The Mortal Instruments) is Hans Hoffman, an Israeli spy who’s spent most of his time undercover in Germany, before being sent to Damascus.
Things get complicated when he meets Kim, Olivia Thirlby (Juno, Dredd), an American photo journalist with whom he starts a relationship.
Meanwhile it transpires that a man called Saraj, Navid Negahban (Charlie Wilson’s War, Homeland (TV)), and his cronies are keeping an eye on Hoffman in the hope he’ll lead them to a spy known as The Angel.
If all of this sounds a little familiar, and you haven’t read the book, then you could be forgiven for thinking so. Damascus Cover sadly comes on the back of Red Sparrow, also based on a novel, although much changed.
The two have similar story lines in large parts, settings are different of course, but both have people selling secrets to the other side, both have pawns in larger games and both have been turned into slow-moving films.
Despite IMDB categorising Damascus Cover as an action, thriller, it’s anything but. It lumbers along, dragging us with it whether we like it or not.
Besides Meyers and Thirlby, most of the other characters are thin, the dialogue is clunky and the story doesn’t do a great job of explaining things to you. Even the use of voice-over near the start is executed extraordinarily badly.
There is some good to come out of Damascus Cover however. Meyers plays the lead well, despite his dodgy accents at times. He’s quite a laid back, suave sort of spy, somewhere in between Bond and Bourne, but without any of the action.
Thirlby is good as the photo-journalist with a hidden side. At times it’s hard to know who’s side she’s on, which is a testament to her acting.
Daniel Zelik Berk (Frozen (TV), Sometimes They Come Back…For More (TV)) is the man behind the camera and co-writer with Samantha Newton (Traces (Short)). The directing doesn’t set the world on fire and, what little action there is, isn’t particularly well shot.
Damascus Cover suffers greatly from a complete lack of tension, people that we care about in any sort of peril and some really bad hair-dye for Meyers.
John Hurt is wasted in this, reduced to sitting on park benches or answering a telephone. Don’t expect to see a lot of him, or of anyone other than Meyers and Thirlby for that matter.
Hopefully, Damascus Cover will see Meyers, and Thirlby, get more chances to play lead roles as both prove they can. Sadly, this isn’t the one that’s going to set your world on fire.