On the evening of September 11, 2001 I attended a screening of Michael Cuesta’s “L.I.E. ” (Long Island Expressway) at the Lagoon Cinema in Minneapolis. I won’t dawdle on the theme right now (a teen’s relationship with an older man played by Brian Cox), but I want to recall that I met Cuesta in a hotel bar after the show – because he couldn’t fly back to New York in the wake of the 9/11 groundings (No, the bar wasn’t the Saloon or the Nineties.)
I met author Vince Flynn at a booksigning party at a Barnes and Noble in Edina, for his self-published “Term Limits” (them it was Cloak and Dagger Press. before Pocket Books gave him a contract), in the fall of 1997, just after I had moved to Minneapolis myself. We had a discussion about the whole process, which I had just executed with my own first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book.
Vince Flynn beat me to the movies. He also died in 2013 at age 47 of unusually aggressive prostate cancer.
Flynn’s genre of techno-thrillers, sometimes compared to Tom Clancy, adapted quickly to the end of the old Cold War and the new world of terrorism and rogue and failed states
Mike Cuesta’s latest film comes from Flynn’s “American Assassin” (2010) which turns out to be eerily prescient with the concern over a rogue state using nuclear weapons. This time, the state is Iran, rather than North Korea.
But the movie is also part of the Mitch Rapp series. This time, Rapp is played by 26-year-old Dylan O’Brien (“Rhe Maze”). In the opening scene, Mitch is with his fiancée (Charlotte Vega) on a Florida beach when a gruesome radical Islamist terror attack mows down everyone on the beach with automatic weapons. Mitch loses his love despite surviving himself with minor injuries. He swears personal revenge. Back in his Rhode Island apartment, having flunked out of college, he finds his calling. He pretends to be a Muslim and gets recruited by ISIS on Twitter (an activity Trump says he wants to shut down despite his own use of the platform) and goes into the Dark Web. Soon he is in Libya. But he has already made arrangements with other mercenaries to become a saboteur, even as he fools his ISIS “trainers” at first.
Fast forward and he is being interviewed by the CIA (director played by Sanaa Lathan, convincing in a minority-cast role as sufficiently authoritative) and trained by a former seal (Michael Keaton) in various virtual reality settings. The “ghost” arms dealer (Taylor Kitsch) hardly looks like one.
The film moves around the world, from London to Poland, to Turkey, Romania, and Italy, as Mitch tracks down a parts of a bomb intended for Tel Aviv. Yes, an underwater nuke can produce a mushroom cloud and destroy a lot of ships in the area.
The real problem right now is that North Korea has more than one nuke, to be sure. I wonder if any of Flynn’s novels deal with the EMP threat (E1 and E3 are different parts).
Dylan O’Brien’s performance merits note. Yes, he rather comes across as superman, verging on a comic book hero. He usually looks clean cut and boyish, with a little wad of chest hair on the beach that survives. When he tries to look like an ISIS fighter in disguise, he isn’t convincing. In most scenes, despite all the mayhem, his pretty physicality remains intact, very slender, very muscular, as if prepared not for “Dancing with the Stars” but for a big gay disco with all the dirty dancing. Milo Yiannopoulos would find him admirable (because “thin” is “in”). Flynn’s writing manages to keep romance and family as a kind of “afterthought” behind the real super-hero, even given Rapp’s earnestness. But, didn’t that perspective come from James Bond — what it means to be a man.
The film was shot in Thailand. Istanbul, Rome, Malta, and London.
|Director, writer:||Michael Cuesta, Vince Flynn|
|When and how viewed:||Regal Ballston Quarter, weekday PM, small audience|
|Companies:||CBS Films, Lionsgate|
(Posted: Wednesday, September 20, 2017 at 11 AM EDT)