While I didn’t think The Numbers Station was anything special, there’s still enough here to warrant at least a rental. Cusack and Akerman deliver enticing performances, and that includes Cusack being dourer than ever, the story unfolds in a unique manner and at least provides some entertainment until the end.
Genre(s): Drama, Suspense
RLJ | R – 89 min. – $29.97 | May 28, 2013
Directed by: Kasper Barfoed
Writer(s): F. Scott Frazier (written by)
Cast: John Cusack, Malin Akerman, Liam Cunningham, Richard Brake, Finbar Lynch, Lucy Griffiths, Joey Ansah
Theatrical Release Date: April 26, 2013
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Disc Size: 22.2 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 3.25/5
At this point whenever I see a movie headlined by John Cusack, I automatically assume he plays a dour character, possibly with a drinking problem and almost certainly lives a lonely and depressing existence. Sure, he’ll throw you a curve in something like Hot Tub Time Machine or 2012, but more often than not you’ll walk away from his movies more dejected than when you started. Seeing the cover for The Numbers Station with Cusack holding a gun and a building on fire would lend to one hell of a suspense-thriller… or not.
Emerson Kent (JOHN CUSACK) is a covert CIA agent who receives his assignment via coded messages. As the movie begins, his latest is to take out a former agent who had squirreled away some cash and was living a quiet life running a bar in the middle of nowhere America. See, like the roach motel, in this agency you can check in but you do not check out. Although Kent takes out the target and the three others in the bar with relative ease, he had missed one patron. Since there can be no witnesses, Grey (LIAM CUNNINGHAM), Kent’s senior partner, drives to the man’s house, as this individual left in hurry leaving his wallet behind, and inside Kent comes across this man’s daughter as she witnessed her father’s assassination. For some reason, this girl is fearless running after Kent and when Kent can’t pull the trigger to kill the girl, Grey does it for him.
This failure leads to a psychiatric review and demotion. Grey sends him to some desolate locale, where no doubt they have movie tax credits, to be a personal bodyguard to a civilian named Katherine (MALIN AKERMAN) who is a genius, inputting numbers to covert agents around their world for the next assignment. Along with another young woman who has her own attaché, these civilians are an important factor in espionage as their codes are old school and unbreakable.
While Katherine is chatty and friendly, those are two qualities Kent does not and – being the introspective type – cannot have. But after spending a lot of time with Katherine, he does have a soft spot for her and takes his duties of protecting her seriously. In the meantime, we also get a glimpse of the other pair who obviously have taken their relationship to a personal level but all that is about to change.
One morning, Kent and Katherine go to work like normal but things at the Numbers Station is anything but. Instead of the other two waiting for the shift change, there’s nobody there and the area is far too quiet. But they soon receive gunfire and a vehicle nearby explodes. They rush inside into the facility to escape the attack and find an eerie site where the facility is damaged. After getting Katherine into a safe place, Kent clears the rest of the facility and finds it empty.
At the same time, they can hear somebody attempting to drill their way inside and their communication to the outside world is extremely limited (via a red phone) and compromised. Now it’s up to them to find out what’s going on and what the perp’s want with this facility.
The Numbers Station is less an action thriller and more a pensive character drama and on that level, it works fairly well thanks to the performances by Cusack, in all his dramatic glory, and Malin Akerman. Also setting it primarily in one location gives it an almost claustrophobic vibe, adding another layer. That being said, after about an hour or so, and despite a clever way of unraveling the events before Kent and Katherine’s arrival, the plot gets bogged down and by the finale, I was actually uninterested in the outcome.
Directed by Danish filmmaker Kasper Barfoed in his English feature film debut and written by F. Scott Frazier marking his own debut, The Numbers Station does have a few things going for it. The plot isn’t anything special but the performances by Cusack and Akerman are good and some of the plot elements do put an interesting spin on the storytelling. While I didn’t think the movie was anything special, there’s still enough here to warrant at least a rental.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.75/5
This release comes with a semi-glossy slip cover. The only feature included is The Making of The Numbers Station (14:26; HD), a behind-the-scenes featurette with your standard on-set interviews with the cast and crew about how the project came along and the actors talk about their characters.
Previews – The Tall Man, Day of the Falcon, The Double
VIDEO – 3.5/5
Not sure if it was shot on the cheap or what, but the picture here is relatively shabby. The Numbers Station is presented with a 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer. The black levels aren’t too bad showing some nice starkness in a few scenes but the detail levels are at times a tad hazy. By no means is it a bad transfer, just weaker and average than most, even independently financed ones.
AUDIO – 4.0/5
The disc includes an adequate 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track especially considering there’s mostly dialogue with the occasional explosion or action set pieces providing the depth for the lossless track. Although this isn’t a special track or anything, it’s still should be satisfactory for most with a home theater.
OVERALL – 3.0/5
Overall, while I didn’t think The Numbers Station was anything special, there’s still enough here to warrant at least a rental. Cusack and Akerman deliver enticing performances, and that includes Cusack being dourer than ever, the story unfolds in a unique manner and at least provides some entertainment until the end. The Blu-ray offers adequate video/audio transfers and the single featurette is OK, getting insights by the cast and crew.