Monday, November 01, 2021

One Shot, Scott Adkins in One Take

Everyone that ever testified before a congressional committee has said “enhanced interrogation” or whatever does not work, because terrorists just make stuff up. However, the American military’s long-standing policy of not court-martialing POWs for anything they might divulge under torture would seem to contradict them (and it feels like a just position to adhere to). In Jean-Pierre Melville’s Army of Shadows, it was taken for granted that resistance members captured by the Germans would inevitably reveal all they knew. (It is a practice we don't condone, but we're also opposed to governing by slogan.) Regardless, characters keep telling us harsh interrogation just does not work, so they resort to a Hail Mary to avert a terror attack in James Nunn’s One Shot, which releases this Friday in theaters and on VOD.

This ill-fated mission will unfold in one seemingly continuous take for Jake Harris and his small team of SEALs. Their mission is to escort CIA analyst Zoe Anderson as she collects terrorist financier Amin Mansur to shuttle him to DC, where a dirty-bomb attack he bank-rolled is due to explode. He has said nothing while site commander Jack Yorke held him, but when he sees his pregnant wife is within the blast radius, she is sure he will change his tune.

Unfortunately, a small army of terrorists attacks the black site soon after Harris and Anderson land. Apparently, Haken Sharef and his jihadists do not trust Mansur to keep his mouth shut. They have the initiative and superior numbers, but they did not expect to find four SEALs on this grim island rock.

Rope-style one-take thing can be a distracting gimmick, but it works better than you would expect here. The way Nunn constantly pans across the field of battle, viewers are keenly aware of how each of the combatants is moving independently. When we lose sight of one, only to have them suddenly pop up somewhere else, it feels like a real combat experience. Despite the one-take pressure, there is still some cool looking fight choreography. Of course, it helps to have someone with Scott Adkins’ chops as the lead.

As you would expect, Adkins is totally credible as Harris. Dino Kelly, Emmanuelle Imani, and Jack Parr do not get to take their SEAL characters on much of a developmental arc, but they keep up with Adkins during the long extended fire-fights. Ashley Greene Khoury plays Anderson with workmanlike competence, but it makes no sense for a junior desk officer to be on such an assignment.

Weirdly, Ryan Phillippe is really quite good as Yorke, but his angry 9/11-widower persona is highly problematic (seriously, don’t the family members of the 3,000 people killed on 9/11 have grounds to be upset?). Frankly, Jess Liaudin’s Sharef would be a solid secondary villain, but he is not flamboyantly evil enough to be a lead bad guy.

Regardless, the action is pretty impressive, which is the whole point. The lectures regarding torture frankly get tiresome, to the point of becoming counter-productive. After all that hand-wringing, a lot of viewers would sign-off on Yorke going Jack Bauer on Manur. Still, Adkins’ opening narration makes a good point on behalf of SEALs and Special Operators when he says “everyone asks me how many people I’ve killed, but nobody ever asks me how many people I’ve saved.” That’s really what Navy SEALs do. Recommended for the shoot-outs and hand-to-hand combat,
One Shot releases this Friday (11/5).