I found her, the first great badass female of 2019! In the new Netflix original Close (2019), Noomi Rapace stars as Sam Carlson, a counterterrorism expert and close protection officer (a fancy word for bodyguard and the inspiration for that awful title). It helps that the director, Vicky Jewson (Born of War) knows how to treat the character. Rapace is absolutely incredible in this role (as she seems to be in every role she plays), unfortunately the rest of the movie fails to live up to her performance.
When a young heiress, Zoe, inherits a massive mining company from her recently deceased father, Sam is assigned to protect her while Zoe’s stepmother, Rima, is away securing a billion dollar deal for the company. After assailants attempt to kill Zoe in the middle of the night, Sam takes her on the run through Morocco. Unsure of who was behind the attempt on Zoe’s life, and with nobody but each other to trust, they try to flee the country into Spain.
First and foremost, Rapace absolutely carries this movie. She has always excelled in physical roles (The Girl with the dragon Tattoo, Bright, Prometheus), and she does the same here. Sam is a tough person. She is damn good at her job, partly because she is completely detached from the people around her. She is 100% focused on the job and keeping the client safe, not in getting to know them or to make friends. While she seems stoic and robotic, however, Rapace portrays so much with her body language and her eyes. The nature of the character could easily have made her boring to watch, but Rapace is able to make the simple act of Sam scanning a room or securing a building immensely watchable.
What makes Sam a truly interesting character, though, are the rare times when her wall comes down and we are allowed to see who she truly is. A moment of tenderness towards Zoe, a moment of grief when a her daughter is mentioned, or the rare moment when we get to see that the job does actually have an affect on her and she isn’t the detached robot that she wants people to believe she is. It’s these moments that separate Sam from every other generic action movie bodyguard character, and without an actor of Rapace’s caliber this character wouldn’t have worked as well.
For the most part, the action in Close is done very well. The set-pieces feel like they are natural elements of the story, as opposed to scenes that the story was built around. That, and director Vicky Jewson’s directing style, give a sense of realism to the action. This allows those scenes to work as not only thrilling action scenes, but also as a means for further character development. Rapace’s talent and physical acting ability elevate the scenes further. Sam’s pain, anger, and determination are clearly portrayed even during the most chaotic fight scenes.
Despite Rapace’s incredible acting and the thrilling action, Close is not without its faults. The plot is pretty generic, and the writers seem to try to prevent it from being dull by overcomplicating the plot with red herrings and plot reveals that range from obvious to idiotic. On top of that, the plot unraveled at the end and what was previously an intense, mostly realistic movie became overly dramatic and silly.
Another weak aspect of Close is the writing of the characters (Other than Sam, of course). The acting is pretty good across the board, but the characters are thinly written cliches or just simply there to deceive the audience. Zoe is probably the worst. She’s the stereotypical spoiled rich girl with Mommy and Daddy issues who clashes with her bodyguard, only to mature and find her inner strength towards the end. As I said before, the ending goes off the rails a bit and a big reason I felt that way is because of Zoe. At no point were we able to connect to her on a personal level, and she absolutely did nothing to make her transformation believable.
Overall, Close is an enjoyable movie with flaws. While the plot is nothing new and it does lose its charm at the end, Rapace’s commitment to the role and some well filmed and thrilling action scenes help it rise above mediocrity. It’s also a relatively short movie with a runtime of only 94 minutes that feels shorter thanks to its quick pace so, If you enjoy tense thrillers carried by a great actor, I would recommend you give this one a try.