The Numbers Station Blu-ray Review
We all know countries do some shady stuff for the sake of the country. Or so they say. The people must be protected in their minds. The people also must be shaded from the ugly truth that exists out there. THE NUMBERS STATION tries to shed some light on these nefarious activities. It is unfortunate that such a lifeless piece of work is the result.
We first learn in the beginning that there are numbers stations all around the world and many countries used them in the past and still use them. It works like this. A person sends out numbered codes to various agents around the world. They take this code and decipher it with their handy notebook that translates this jumbled mess into a coherent message. The agent then burns up the message, so it doesn’t get into enemy hands. An interesting premise, if not wholly original, could be gleamed from this. There is an inherent fascination with numbers that can explain the universe away in a tangible sense. That must be a reason why many alien movies use numbers as communication with the creatures from the distant regions of our universe.
Emerson Kent (a listless John Cusack) is one such agent that relies on numbers for his orders. On his latest mission, he must find and kill a man who left the clandestine agency for a better life. Apparently that is a bad career choice. He is working with his boss, Michael Grey (Liam Cunningham), on this case. Everything is supposed to go like clockwork. Timing must be precise or things go bad. Things do go bad here. Emerson lets one man escape, but he drops his wallet in the process. In this type of work tidy is the name of the game. There can’t be any loose ends. Emerson kills this loose end, but encounters the man’s daughter while doing it. She asks him simply why he was doing this. It was frankly a fair and reasonable question which he has no answers. Emerson lets her live, but Michael apparently did not agree with this move. She gets taken care of.
The botched mission leaves Emerson a broken man. He continually has nightmares about the final seconds of the girl’s life. He wonders what he is doing with his life. An assassin that suddenly has a conscience has been done a million times before. That doesn’t mean that it can’t still be done and be solid entertainment. Look at the recent In Bruges. Colin Farrell’s character is tackling a similar situation after he accidentally kills a young boy. His faith is shaken and his work gets shoddy. That movie went about it with dark humor mixed with some brutal violence to good effect. THE NUMBERS STATION tries to portray this in a more dramatic way with some action scenes thrown in. We see Emerson lying awake with visions of the dead girls dancing in his head. While in In Bruges we get to know Farrell’s character and can empathize in some ways with him. Here Emerson is not really relatable. There is no personality to be had. Director Kasper Barfoed and screenwriter F. Scott Frazier gives Cusack no favors at all in writing and portraying this character. Watching paint dry would be more interesting than this man. It’s a shame because Cusack when given good material can deliver fine performances. It just isn’t evident here.
As the story progresses, it is decided that Emerson should be taken out of the field and moved to a more tranquil location. He is transported to a numbers station in Suffolk, England where he is paired with a civilian broadcaster named Katherine (Malin Akerman). Katherine broadcasts the codes that go out to the agents. So Emerson is now on the other side of the operation and he has intimate knowledge of what goes on out there. This team trades shifts every three days with another male-female team.
Two months pass and not much goes on. Emerson is still having his nightmares and he keeps his conversations with Katherine to a minimum. Emerson tries to always be professional, while Katherine attempts new ways to loosen him up. Barfoed doesn’t really show these two bonding in any meaningful way. You just have to assume that they have some kind of respect for each other. This is truly one of the many fatal flaws on display. We simply don’t know anything about these characters. It is hard to care for them when there is nothing to care about.
Since this is a movie, something has to happen to our protagonists. Indeed it does. The bad guys infiltrate the facility and try to send out multiple messages that would cripple the organization. Once again there isn’t any flair or excitement. The action scenes are so humdrum and ordinary that you actually wish to see the nightmares about the dead girl so more. Cusack looks so uncomfortable pulling off these scenes. Akerman fares a bit better with her sense of bewilderment of what is happening and what needs to be done.
THE NUMBERS STATION fails in every sense of the word. It is not thrilling enough to work as an action film. It is not deep or interesting enough to work as a drama or character study. The move clocks in at less than an hour and a half. This is one of the few times where it has to be longer. The characters sorely needed to be fleshed out more. John Cusack is an actor I grew up watching and admiring. It pains me to say this, but stay far away from this turkey.
THE NUMBERS STATION BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: It is an okay transfer. It did seem to be darker than it needed to be at times.
Audio: Action aficionados will be sorely disappointed with the sound quality. It is does not have a robust sound that action films should have. The gun fire is strangely muted and distracting to say the least. This is disappointing in every way.
The Making of The Numbers Station (14:26): The two leads and the producer basically discuss the plot of the film. Nothing deep is discussed here.