Whenever I watch a film showing people inside a house or building being attacked from outside forces, I grip the arms of my theater seat as tightly as possible -- because that situation terrifies me. The Numbers Station, co-starring John Cusack and Malin Ackerman, is one of those movies. Cusack plays Emerson, a black ops agent who’s starting to develop a conscience. After receiving an unfavorable psych evaluation, he's given an easy assignment to get him out of the field. His simple mission? Protect code announcer Katherine -- portrayed by Ackerman -- and her work site, which is located in an abandoned military base somewhere in the English countryside.
Cusack (2012) and Ackerman (Watchmen) deliver excellent performances as two very different individuals who barely know each other until they must struggle for survival during a violent ambush at the numbers station. Cusack’s usual clipped way of talking serves him well in this role, and he also appears convincing in the gunplay sequences as well as in his guarded interactions with others. This world-weary Emerson guy could be the older version of Cusack’s hit man in Grosse Point Blank. Ackerman makes Katherine the more sympathetic character. She appears warm and friendly -- in stark contrast to her protector’s stand-offish behavior. Liam Cunningham (Safe House) portrays Emerson’s boss, and I found him to be an intriguing character who adds to the tension of this suspenseful thriller.
Ottar Guonason’s (Love, Wedding, Marriage) cinematography highlights the confined space Emerson and Katherine are working in as an important contributor to the tension here. And the mystery about those random numbers Katherine announces at set times -- which seem to be broadcast to other agents for secret assignments all over the world -- piques our curiosity. But who could be out to kill Katherine? And why? Plus, how in the world will Emerson and Katherine manage to survive the explosive ambush at their numbers station? While cringing through all the carnage, I couldn’t help hoping that Emerson would somehow be able to leave his violent black ops life. In other words, I felt immersed in what was happening on screen. Thankfully, nothing occurred to take me out of the film.
The Numbers Station, deftly directed by Kasper Barfoed (The Last Treasure of the Knights Templar) from a debut feature screenplay by F. Scott Frazier, may be one of those films that fails to get much attention from mainstream audiences, but I think it’s definitely worth seeing for John Cusack fans and for viewers who love an engrossing action thriller.
(Released by Image Entertainment and rated “R” for violence and language.)
For more information about this film, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.