The Numbers Station
dir Kasper Barfoed
scr F Scott Frazier
prd Bryan Furst, Sean Furst, Nigel Thomas
with John Cusack, Malin Akerman, Liam Cunningham, Richard Brake, Bryan Dick, Finbar Lynch, Lucy Griffiths, Joey Ansah, Victor Gardener, Joe Montana, Hannah Murray, Jonathan Jaynes
release US 26.Apr.13, UK 27.May.13
13/UK 1h29
The Numbers Station
Counting the hours: Akerman and Cusack

cusack cunningham dick
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Numbers Station While this film's twisty plot has potential, and bone-dry wit helps add interest to the characters, director Barfoed struggles to generate enough energy to make us care about anything that happens. And it's even more difficult to sympathise when the script fails to make sense of the events we're watching.

Governments have always denied the use of secret shortwave radio stations sending number strings to covert operatives, but the broadcasts continue today. And that's how clean-up agent Emerson (Cusack) gets his jobs. But he's having second thoughts about his work, and his boss Gray (Cunningham) is getting tired of covering for him. So he's sent to a numbers station in rural England to watch over cryptologist Katherine (Akerman). When the station is compromised, they're forced to fight for their lives, hiding inside while the villains try to break in.

The film has a stylish, haunted quality, as the nihilistic Emerson is tormented by the death of a teen girl on a past assignment, made even worse by his colleagues' "no loose ends" callousness. This gives his awkward relationship with Katherine an undercurrent of fragility. And Cusack, Akerman and Cunningham play their scenes with a superb mix of weary wit and brainy banter that almost makes up for the lack of development in their essentially thankless characters.

Meanwhile, the plot feels pedestrian and the low-fi filmmaking relies on too many simplistic shootouts and murky shadows. What happens is genuinely mysterious, but some badly contrived revelations ring deeply false, especially since they require random flashbacks that follow no real logic. It's not like we couldn't tell from the start that Emerson has become a loose end himself. And now if Katherine ends up in the crosshairs, of course Emerson will try to protect her, even though his assignment now is to "retire" her.

But everything is so undercooked that it's impossible for us to engage with the film. As Emerson and Katherine hole up in the basement, the film hits a dead-end as well, never ramping up either the interpersonal drama or the story's action-thriller aspects. So we just bide our time and wait for the big surprise that we know will come. And it's not very difficult to figure out what that might be.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 19.May.13

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