SAS: Red Notice is the 2021 action thriller directed by Magnus Martens. The British film is written by Laurence Malkin. It is based on the novel by the same name. The novel is authored by Andy McNab. The movie stars Sam Heughan, Ruby Rose, Andy Serkis, Hannah John-Kamen, Tom Hopper, Noel Clarke, Owain Yeoman, Ray Panthaki, Anne Reid, and Tom Wilkinson. The premise of the film involves Tom Buckingham, who is a special forces operator who has been suspended. He is traveling with his girlfriend Sophie to Paris, where he wishes to propose to her. As the train traverses through the Channel Tunnel, it is hijacked by a group of terrorists led by Grace Lewis. As the terrorists demand a ransom, they are not prepared for the specially trained operative. Distributed by Sky Cinema, the film has received largely negative to mixed at best reviews.
SAS: Red Notice hit theatres in the United States on March 12, 2021. The film’s story is a generic one with all the bells and whistles that we’ve become very familiar with. It doesn’t do anything new and original. The acting is sub-par, too, with little creativity in any of its action sequences. Andy Serkis brings his charm and talent to the table in the scant amounts of scenes he’s given. The story takes place in a single setting — the moving train. And in that sense, it’s a very familiar trope. When you’re contending with a premise such as that, it’s required that you make it unique. Unfortunately, the movie isn’t unique or original. It isn’t all boring, and there are certainly some twists and turns that keep it a bit interesting. Other than that, however, it’s a sum-total of unoriginal and dull experience.
About the Novel, it’s Based On
The film is based on the novel SAS: Red Notice by the author Andy McNab. This is one of his best-selling works among a series of other best-sellers. McNab is a former British soldier and one of the most celebrated soldiers as well. He was enlisted in the 22 SAS regiment which he left in 1993 after being awarded medals for his service in the Gulf war. The Red Notice book follows the Eurostar to Paris train getting hijacked by a small army of terrorists. Taking 400 hostages, the terrorists declare war on the secretive government and ask for ransom. What they are unaware of, however, is that there’s a highly trained SAS soldier on board too.
SAS: Red Notice — Plot Details and Synopsis
A small army of vicious terrorists hijacks a train. The train is moving through the Channel Tunnel between England and France. The terrorists hold the passenger’s hostage and demand a ransom from the British government. The terrorists have seized the train and held the passenger’s hostage in a competently executed plan. However, they’re unaware of a looming threat that could spoil their actions. They haven’t taken into account that a specially trained operative might be present amongst the passengers. That specially trained soldier is Tom Buckingham. He is a special forces operator on board the train with his girlfriend, among the hostages. There’s also a lot of politics involved in the plot with the British government and the British gas company Britgaz.
The American Grace Lewis (Ruby) leads the tiny army of terrorists on the train. She’s an heir to the family of mercenaries. The group is known as the Black Swans. The group has a dark history with corrupt British government officials and the Britgaz gas company. Lewis is the daughter of William (Tom Wilkinson) and sister to Olly (Owain Yeoman), both members of Black Swan. We get to see the dark and murky backstory of the Black Swans. We get the explanation for Grace’s threats hurled at the British government. While holding the passenger’s hostage, she demands a ransom, or she will expose the British government’s darkest secrets. We get to see what these dark secrets are all about in the backstory in the first half of the movie.
Mercenaries, Corrupt Government, and a Lone Savior.
It turns out that the Black Swans were hired by the British gas company Britgaz to massacre an entire village. Britgaz is owned by the British government, so it’s actually the government that has hired the mercenaries. They hired the Black Swans to carry out a horrible massacre of a village in the Republic of Georgia. The reason for the massacre? Because the village won’t accept a gas pipeline to pass through it. The Black Swans carry out the job and massacre the village. However, cell phone footage of their village massacre starts making rounds online; they’re branded as terrorists by the government. A Red Notice is issued to start a nationwide manhunt of the Black Swans. Grace and a small faction manage to evade the manhunt and then go on to hijack yeh Eurostar Channel train.
Tom Buckingham is a suspended special forces operator. He’s a SAS soldier that’s on the same train as the terrorist hijackers. He’s an officer of the SAS counter-terrorism unit with his presence on the train unknown to the terrorists. Tom is on the train with his girlfriend Sophie (Hannah John-Kamen) en route to France. Tom’s seeking to reach Paris with Sophie to finally propose to her. But his plans to finally pop the question in Paris are hitched by the hijacking terrorists. Now it’s incumbent upon him to fight off and eliminate the terrorists and save his girlfriend with all the passengers. Thankfully, Tom is a John McClane-like one-man army equipped to deal with the mercenaries. We follow him to take down the terrorists one by one, covertly at first and then in a climactic all-out brawl.
SAS: Red Notice is Drab, Dull, and Generic Film
SAS: Red Notice is an action thriller that takes place almost entirely on a running train. The main character played by Sam Heughan is your generic one-man-army type. With his takedowns of the terrorists while on the train, it feels like a mashup of Die Hard and The Commuter. Although it definitely isn’t as good as Die Hard, one can argue that it holds up well against the latter. But even that’s a difficult argument to make. The Commuter has at least the gravitas and expected charm of Liam Neeson. And while Sam Heughan is okay as the lead, the one with any charm to them is Serkis. The issue is: he doesn’t get to show his charm with the little screentime he’s given here. Ruby Rose is also disappointed with her performance.
The film does feel a lot like a Die Hard on a train. With both John McClane and Tom being unruly leads. They both unexpectedly encounter a group of terrorists in a setting that ensnares their love interests. But that’s the extent of the similarities. SAS: Red Notice has neither the charm like that of Bruce Willis’ lead character nor the memorable dialogues. It isn’t nearly as appropriately paced either. The film feels pretty bloated and unnecessarily long with a 2-hour runtime. A trimmed-down runtime could’ve certainly helped make it more consumable. The dialogues in this movie are very poor. With all the blandness the movie carries, it’s yet another addition to the disappointing roster of films Sky Cinema is synonymous with by now.
Final Verdict: A Lackluster Affair
There are attempts at good action, but they failed to do anything for me. The amount of creativity in the action sequences just doesn’t suffice. The action is also brutal at times, but it’s nothing memorable. One of the biggest negatives of the movie is that it’s all just too bland. From the acting performances to the script, the direction, and the action sequences — it’s pretty lackluster. It does have quite a bit of potential to work as a great action thriller that pays homage to and emulates classics. But it doesn’t live up to the expectations. And all the aforementioned reasons are attributable to that. There’s really nothing original or creative going on that’ll make the film distinct. And it’s not awfully bad either. It sits somewhere in between the good and awfully bad, which is what makes it unmemorable and just mundane.
With a weak script, poorly executed direction, and bland performances, the film doesn’t even manage to be average. My rating for SAS: Red Notice is 1.5 out of 5 stars.