The Special Boat Service (SBS) are basically the SAS of the seas in the UK. For all you US of A folk out there, think of them as your Navy Seals, only better, naturally. Well first anyway. Not seen on screen for a long time (if ever), now we have a film featuring them.
Stratton sees SBS commander John Stratton, played by Dominic Cooper (Warcraft: The Beginning, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), set the task of hunting down an international terrorist, played by Thomas Kretschman (Hitman: Agent 47, Avengers: Age of Ultron), who is threatening to set-off a dirty-bomb with a new chemical weapon.
That’s pretty much it. There’s a very tiny sub-plot involving Tom Felton (Harry Potter, A United Kingdom) that fizzles out and is a little pointless. The movie is based on a book series by Duncan Falconer, a former SBS soldier himself, and the title role was initially supposed to go to Henry Cavill but, as reports go, he dropped out a week before filming was due to start due to ‘creative differences’. Whatever that means.
Does that matter? Well, I imagine a week is not a lot of time to prepare for a role of any type. Given that, I suppose Cooper does a reasonable job, however I’m just not convinced by him. I don’t see him as an SBS commander, or soldier. In fact, that’s an ongoing theme throughout the film, I’m not convinced by any of the actors. Everyone speaks with the most clipped ‘BBC’ style accents (despite the home of the SBS being in Poole, Dorset), and they’re all just a bit too ‘clean’ and ‘crisp’ and polite.
We have, as Stratton’s boss, Connie Nielsen (Gladiator, One Hour Photo), who’s Danish and is the main culprit when it comes to the clipped accent. Gemma Chan (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Humans (TV)) plays a gadgety-tech style person but is wasted in the small role she is given.
When Cooper’s first partner is killed, he gets replaced by an American, played by Austin Stowell (Whiplash, Bridge of Spies). This is very unlikely to happen by the way, that the special forces from a country would allow someone of another, non-affiliated country, to serve alongside their own, but anyway, we’ll let that slide.
What we can’t let slide is just how slow this movie is. Given it’s supposed to be an action/thriller it’s about as thrilling as painting a wall and the action is pretty shoddy (and that’s being kind). I’m unsure if this is to do with the writing, by Warren Davis II (Aftermath (TV), Night of the Living Dead: Darkest Dawn) or directing by Simon West (Con Air, The Expendables 2). Given West’s previous, I’d have to lay blame with Davis II.
Anyone looking forward to seeing lots of water-based action will be disappointed. There’s a small boat chase but, these days, the SBS do non-water based work in landlocked regions in some instances. Kretschman’s character is weak and, whilst he does have a scene in which he can show he’s a bad-guy, it’s not enough to have you scared or on the edge of your seat.
We have some shoddy dialogue and a weird role for Derek Jacobi (Gladiator, Ironclad) who brought Stratton up (they both live on boats, of course they do). It just feels a little disjointed and I imagine would have been even stranger with Cavill in the lead.
Ultimately, Stratton is a weak film. It’s the sort of thing you might expect to see on ITV or the BBC as a one-hour, one-off, maybe a two-parter. There wasn’t enough to make a film and not enough to make a film that would compete with the Hollywood machine that is expert at turning these sort of films out.