Film

SAS: Red Notice is an Andy McNab rollercoaster with some cracks and creaks

This fast-paced Eurostar hijack adventure has its flaws, but you can trust in the Andy McNab source material

On the surface, SAS: Red Notice is the kind of action-packed movie we expect Hollywood to make, and/or Liam Neeson to star in. It’s the story of a bunch of criminals hijacking the Eurostar as it makes its way beneath the English Channel, and the efforts of one man to stop them. But this is a little bit different. Based on the huge-selling book of the same name from Andy McNab, it’s an action film from the UK, and not short of explosive moments.

Sam Heughan takes the lead here as Tom Buckingham, a special forces operative who happens to be suspended. No matter: it means he can take his partner, Dr Sophie Hart – played by Hannah John-Kamen – on a romantic trip to Paris, secretly planning to propose to her. What, I ask, could possibly go wrong?

Separately, Ruby Rose’s Grace Lewis has a plan. She and her gang of terrorists plan to blow up – wouldn’t you know it – the Channel Tunnel at the point Tom and Sophie’s train is making its way through the thing. Moreover, she takes the train hostage.

Those are pretty much your main ingredients, but two factors play heavily in the film’s favour. Firstly, the cast. Rose is excellent, Heughan makes a convincing lead, and John-Kamen is never less than good value. But also, recruiting seasoned performers such as Noel Clarke, Tom Hopper, Tom Wilkinson and Andy Serkis for the supporting roles proves rather wise.

Furthermore, in the early stages in particular – before we get to the train – director Magnus Martens, working from a script adaptation by Laurence Malkin, stages some strong sequences.

Where the cracks start to show are when we’re taken aboard the Eurostar, which is a good chunk of the film. As much as the ensemble attempts to distract you, it does became just a little too obvious that all concerned aren’t actually on a train at all. It underpins the stakes and the jeopardy a little, and, understandably, there are budget and logistical constraints in hiring the actual Channel Tunnel to stage just what SAS: Red Notice is trying to put on the screen. But there’s an argument that runs if you’re noticing just how fake bits of it look, then there’s a bit of the film itself at least that’s sagging.

Where the cracks start to show are when we’re taken aboard the Eurostar

It’s a pity, because the rest of it gives us enough ingredients to buy it all, even before you start to consider the background of McNab himself. Heck, he’s got a far deeper insight into the world of special forces than me, and I’ve no urge to get into a debate I’d lose with him on it. Appreciating what we see is dramatised, I’m in no position to question how close to the truth it is. It’s just that the boundaries of the film sometimes become a little too obvious.

Which isn’t to say the film doesn’t have moments. Action sequences are well staged, the editing is sharp, and most of the two-hour running time bristles along. Plus: Rose really is a good foe. What’s more, it’s a perfectly engaging action movie if you go with it, one that arguably would have benefitted from a cinema release, but for obvious reasons Sky Cinema didn’t have the option of that.

It’s little secret that McNab has more books primed for the movies if this one hits, and the ingredients here suggest more would be welcome. Treat this as a steady start. And try to forget that Liam Neeson film set on a train as you watch it.

@simonbrew

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