Sam (Noomi Rapace) is a bodyguard as familiar with the sound of bullets whizzing past her head as she is with the pressure needed to pull a trigger and end a man’s life. Her workplace has typically been war zones, but her latest assignment sees her tasked with helping transport a young heiress named Zoe (Sophie Nélisse) to her stepmother’s home in Morocco. The woman’s father has left a substantial fortune to her dictating control of his oil company, and Sam’s final night on the job is interrupted by intruders hoping to abduct the newly wealthy Zoe. Sam saves her and winds up on the run in a foreign land with killers, corrupt cops, and dangerous truths at every turn.
Stories about skilled bodyguards assigned to protect spoiled and/or fragile clients are nothing new with film’s like The Bodyguard (1992), Guarding Tess (1994), and Man on Fire (2004) each delivering similar themes. Each stand apart, though, in the details and character specifics they bring to the screen. The new Netflix Film Close isn’t on par with those movies’ various strengths — pop perfection, character drama, and bad-assery, respectively — but at a quick 94 minutes, the film manages to hold your attention and remind you that Rapace is a convincing action lead.
While the story does nothing new — Zoe’s a brat, Sam’s got issues connecting with people, someone’s lying to them both — director/co-writer Vicky Jewson shows a smart, strong eye for action sequences and a clear trust in her lead actor. The opening introduces Sam’s skill sets on the job in the Middle East before jumping into the story proper. Two pretty impressive and thrilling sequences are highlights in the film including a fight with Sam’s hands tied behind her back. Rapace sells the intensity and action without the benefit of a stunt double, and it’s a brutally entertaining sequence. Other scenes shine too including an underwater fight as large fish swarm around them and a home invasion by bad guys who take over a smart house’s computerized defenses.
The cast is competent, and even Nélisse’s performance keeps Zoe from becoming a whiny caricature, but it’s Rapace who holds the screen with a character who takes her profession seriously. She’s kept busy since becoming a worldwide star in 2009’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and the past three years have seen in three Netflix films (What Happened to Monday?, Bright, and now Close). Sam has her emotional issues in the form of a daughter she gave up years prior, and Rapace sells the pain of the scenes without having to overdo things on the expression front. The script (co-written by Rupert Whitaker) isn’t quite as sure how to treat this character thread, though, and it winds up simply dangling the information out there with no real weight or resolution. It’s stronger elsewhere, though, including in a sequence where the women are attacked and a restrained Sam repeatedly instructs Zoe to “fight back” if they try putting her in a vehicle (at which point she’d be disappeared into the night).
The lackluster wrap-up is unfortunately on display in the film’s main narrative as well with Sam and Zoe retreating someplace too familiar and concluding things far too simply. The action in the third act shrinks in size and effect, and the film’s attempts at setting up twists and reveals unfold with minimal impact. It limps to a conclusion and credits roll. It doesn’t kill the experience, but it definitely ends the film on far less of a high than it achieves at various moments throughout.
Close is worth a watch for genre fans as Jewson delivers with some exciting sequences and Rapace with a compelling character. It doesn’t break the mold, but it’s still refreshing seeing a female actor in the lead and in this familiar role. And honestly, any movie featuring Kate Bush’s brilliant “Running up the Hill” (even in cover form) deserves your time.