(Written by Intern, Megan Davis)
As a descendant of a long line of military men, I went in with the idea of The Contractor would be yet another run-of-the-mill military movie that my ex-Army dad would be interested in, and I must say, it never proved me wrong. While the premise of the film is intriguing, the execution of the story is less than extraordinary. There are extremely strong areas within the production, but there are also elements that could go through some major improvements, leaving it to hit a relatively average mark.
In his first movie since the release of Wonder Woman 1984, Chris Pine takes on the role of James Harper, a U.S. Army Special Forces sergeant who is honorably discharged after the use of drugs for a knee injury. James is left with no pension or benefits. James, although he has denounced military private contracting in the past, takes action to provide for and protect his family by joining an underground contracting organization. When an assignment goes wrong, James must make his way home while avoiding those who want him dead.
From the very beginning, we bear witness to the remarkable cinematography The Contractor has to offer. Sprinkled throughout the film are beautiful landscape shots that I could stare at for hours, including one sunset that remains in my head consistently after two viewings. There were many moments while watching that I found myself admiring the small details that were considered within the production design. Whether considering the switch from a cozy home to dingy shelters, or merely graffiti in Berlin stating “Respect ’89,” the production designers took every piece into account.
The acting across the board is spectacular. Ben Foster and Chris Pine, previously starring together in The Finest Hours and Hell or High Water, make a great duo. From a deeply rooted friendship to a passionate fight of betrayal, these two can do it all with their chemistry. I cannot say enough to describe the intensely emotional performance given by Chris Pine. Pine’s dramatization of James Harper is truly the strongest aspect of The Contractor. The anger and torment we see from James in the latter half of the film is gripping. Pine shows off his ability to use the smallest of actions to share the character’s every emotion immensely. Gillian Jacobs as Brianne, James Harper’s wife, was so authentically heartrending that I expected her to play a much larger role. One of the biggest disservices to this film is the disappearance of Brianne Harper after a mere thirty minutes. As the military wife who has seen the deaths of too many men like her husband, Brianne’s quiet pain leaves a lasting impression in her short time on-screen. Her inclusion in the beginning sets up a significant role, and yet, she only appears for a third of the runtime.
Some of the cinematic choices I observed in The Contractor left me thoroughly confused, or took me out of the story altogether. While in some cases it pays off to get creative with shots and editing, that is not the case in this film. It remains difficult to execute the horizontal flip of a shot across the axis of action randomly, and The Contractor definitely is not successful in this regard. The minor plot holes scattered throughout also do little justice to the story. Had the continuity been in the same consideration as the production design, The Contractor would have rose a great deal higher than simply mediocre.
The Contractor shoots into theaters and On Demand on April 1st.