Written by Christopher Salmanpour and Directed by Nimród Antal, Retribution stars Liam Neeson, Matthew Modine, Embeth Davidtz, Jack Champion, Lilly Aspell and Noma Dumezweni. It'll be screening in cinemas on 21 September 2023. This immersive ticking clock thriller comes from the producers of Non-Stop and The Commuter.
Matt Turner (Liam Neeson) is a successful Berlin-based American businessman juggling a booming financial career and family responsibility. Driving his kids to school one morning, Matt receives a phone call from a mysterious voice: there are pressurised bombs under their seats that will detonate if Matt tries to get anyone out of the car, calls the cops or fails to follow a set of increasingly dangerous instructions. Trapped in their car in a high-speed chase across the city, Matt is in a race against time to keep his family alive and figure out why this is happening to him, over the course of one day.
An American banker in Berlin. Matt Turner is so distracted by work, that he forgot he had promised his wife to take their son Zach and daughter Emily to school that morning. They're not making life easy, bickering with each other, adding more stress to a situation Turner doesn't want to be in. Herding his children into the car, Turner is met with resistance from his son who refuses to get into the car and takes off on foot. This is not taken lightly by his father, who trails him and forcefully insists he get in the car. This is just a little snapshot of this dysfunctional family. On the drive, an annoying ringtone rings through the car from a phone belonging to no one until Turner picks up - chaos is about to be unleashed. It's a case of following every given instruction, or getting blown up and dying.
This time around, Neeson is just an everyday man with no particular set of skills, about to have the worst day of his life. A guy who has got his priorities wrong and is totally unprepared when he finds himself in either of the two situations he faces - whether it's the threat of being blown up with his children in the car, or slowly realising he doesn't know how to communicate with his family anymore. Amidst a trail of destruction in its wake as Matt races against time, with the law chasing him, believing he's the bomber, he comes to the attention of Agent Angela Brickman (Noma Dumezweni). She's completely unaware that Matt is under orders from an unseen assailant. All she knows is that he is to be stopped, at any cost.
This is a whole story that takes place from inside a car, which is not unusual for Neeson who spent an entire film in a moving train. An accomplished actor with acting prowess on display in films like 'Michael Collins', 'Schindler's List' and more, Neeson does a good job of keeping the tension up with his strong performance. The camera is locked in on its characters in this confined space as the tension ratchets up and up inside and outside the car. The two young actors playing his children perform effortlessly and are natural in their roles taking the close-up scrutiny of the camera and giving it as good as Neeson. They take on the challenge of performances that take place inside a car for 90% of the time with ease, with only the streets of Berlin giving us glimpses of interest.
At some point in the film, I found that it became a little tiresome, perhaps a little too long strapped in the car despite the film's 90-minute short length. Unlike being on a bus or a train with an added interest of watching the character moving around, the repetition of this 'mysterious voice' and following instructions got a little old. Coupled with its formulaic structure, it became a little bit of same old same old within a very simple story. Even though their talents have been wasted, there's nothing to fault with the performances of all the actors. It is the strength of their performances that carries a movie with nothing new to see in a very predictable story with no complexity. But that's just my opinion. My friend who had never seen a Neeson film ever, thought it was fabulous, and being German she thoroughly enjoyed the language and the scenes of Berlin within the film.