Review by James Lindorf
The multiple award-winning Damascus Cover was written and directed by Daniel Zelik Berk, an Israeli filmmaker, along with his co-writer Samantha Newton. The pair came together to tell the story of Ari Ben-Zion, an undercover agent for Israel’s Mossad agency, who buries himself in his work and his new identities to escape his grief over the death of his son. When his latest mission to smuggle a chemical weapons scientist and his family out of Syria begins to go wrong, things are further complicated when he meets Kim, a beautiful American journalist. As things start to spiral out of control, Ari soon discovers that he is a pawn in a much bigger plan. Damascus Cover stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Vikings), Olivia Thirlby (Juno) and John Hurt, in his final performance, and will be in cinemas starting July 20th in the USA and August 3rd in the UK and Ireland.
There are many things to like about this film; the setting is beautiful, it was filmed entirely in Morocco, it is edited well, and the cinematography is very well done. Jonathan Rhys Myers gives a pretty good performance, in spite of an inconsistent German accent. The script didn’t do him any favors in that area. He is an Irish actor, playing an undercover Israeli, who is masquerading as a German. That’s a lot to keep track of and is a difficult accent to achieve believably. Olivia gives the best performance of the film as Kim. She is feisty, passionate and a little sad, giving her a wide range of emotions to draw on for her performance.
What really makes this a film that you will watch once and forget about is the script. It suffered from the need to have too many twists to create tension artificially. Instead of giving us one solid story that focuses on our main characters, builds their chemistry and puts them in danger, we are given a story filled with clichés, action scenes that are meaningless, and storylines and characters that get dropped and added at random. Rhys Myers’ alley fight is hands-down the best action scene in the movie, but only existed to be filler when Berk and Newton couldn’t decide where to take the story.
I really wanted to like this movie, mostly for Kim and Ari, but ultimately their relationship is wasted. So was John Hurts last performance, as well as Berk’s chance at making a great thriller. Everyone here is capable of doing better. There is talent all over the place, it just didn’t come together, and the troubled production schedule is further proof of that. Watching Damascus Cover isn’t the worst movie you could spend 90 minutes with, but it may be among the most unfulfilling.
In Select Theaters July 20th and On Demand July 27th.
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