Movie Ramblings: Lockout


Lockout is a pretty standard sci-fi action thriller.  Which relies on flashy effects set pieces and dramatic action scenes rather than plot, characters or dialogue to keep the viewer’s attention.  It requires a lot of suspension of disbelief and an open mind regarding plot holes and contrivances.  If you can manage this then you’ll probably enjoy this film. Unfortunately, the film never really manages to generate any kind of suspense or peril and you never really care about any of the characters or what happens to them.

Without spoiling anything that you won’t have seen in the trailer, this film is about a guy who gets coerced by the American Secret Service into going to a maximum security prison in space to rescue the daughter of the president from a prison riot. 

There are a lot of special effects and action in this movie.  They are really the main focus with the girl in peril and espionage/treason storylines taking a distant second and any character development way at the back.  At the beginning they seem to be going for a minority report style futuristic action theme but it feels a lot like you are watching a video game cut scene in fast forward.  Fortunately later in the movie the effects are a bit better.

From here on in, I can’t guarantee no spoilers. 

There are 3 main characters in this film:

The Boy
Guy Pearce as Snow in ``Lockout.''

The Girl

The Crazies/Bad Guys
This last one is a bit mean as there are 2 main “bad guy” characters and the most important one isn’t actually in this photo.

I must admit that after the first 20 minutes or so of this I was getting a bit bored, it seemed to be taking itself very seriously but the dialogue is very clunky and the characters are just one dimensional sketches.  As previously mentioned the effects were not exactly poor but very obviously effects rather than nicely integrated into the movie.

It is not really until after the prison riot is made possible by the president’s daughter and the main action moves into space that the film starts to get entertaining.  For some reason the sets and effects are a lot more believable in space than they are on Earth.

What isn’t believable is the ridiculous way in which the prison riot/escape starts.  The president’s daughter wants to prove that the prison (which uses hibernation to keep the prisoners asleep for most of their sentence) is running experiments on the inmates to test the feasibility of deep space travel.  To do this she has arranged to interview some of the prisoners.  A prisoner is woken from his sleep pod and brought into a room where he is separated from her by a sheet of glass(presumably bulletproof or toughened in some way).  For some unknown reason, 2 secret service agents are on the prisoner side of the glass.  No agents are with the “first daughter” and there is no sign of any prison wardens or officials nor is there any kind of surveillance or monitoring of the prisoner. 

One of the secret service agents has smuggled a gun into this highly secure area.  How he has done this is uncertain, he seems to have put it in an ankle holster when surrendering his main weapon but obviously there is no kind of metal detector etc to enforce the no weapons rule.  So of course the prisoner steals the gun, shoots the agents and breaks the manacles he is secured with and the glass in the doors to the room using a normal hand gun.  Being a movie, more or less everything he shoots explodes and catches fire causing chaos. 

Now, if you tried this in an old fashioned prison here on Earth, you would probably be isolated in a small part of the prison and unable to leave and surrounded by armed guards pretty quickly.  However, in space all the guards appear to be having a tea break and this psycho is able to wander around the maximum security prison unmolested, shoot a few people and work out how to release the rest of the prisoners.  The only alarm that sounds is the fire alarm which the girl has to set off manually as it hasn’t come on as a result of the massive explosion and resulting multiple fires caused when the prisoner breaks free.

So before too long, all the prisoners are released and the guards (such as they are, most of the staff seem to be techs I guess because all the prisoners are usually asleep but the place has facilities for dealing with awake prisoners and a massive armoury so you’d expect a lot more guards) are all subdued.  The prisoners don’t know who they have in their group of hostages so this gives our hero time to get convinced to go to the prison and help.  Now, I didn’t explain this earlier as I was avoiding spoilers but the hero (“Snow”) was caught doing some treason at the beginning of the film with the help of an accomplice (“Mace”).  The hero is caught and interrogated but protests his innocence.  He is convicted without any trial or anything and sentenced to be sent to the space prison.  He is pulled out of hibernation (or pre-hibernation or something, it is not really explained but it makes him amusingly groggy like he is drunk) on Earth and asked to help out, he refuses and is convinced to help out when he is told that Mace is already in the prison.  We have practically no information on Mace but you have got to assume that he is one bad motherf***er since he wasn’t caught until well after Snow but has also somehow been fasttracked into space in less time than it has taken for Snow to be prepped for the journey!

One of the highlights of this film is the delightfully crazy second in command of the riot Hydell who is also the prisoner who first breaks out.  He is the kind of crazy person who does everything for the fun of it and there are some good scenes where his older brother Alex (who is in charge of the riot for some reason which is never explained) tries to keep him under control.  For some reason there are about 8 or so henchmen of the riot, the rest of the prisoners seem to be content to hang around outside the hibernation pods and chat, or murder each other or whatever else they like to do to pass the time.  As Snow slowly kills off the core group of rioters, no attempt is made by Alex to replenish their number from the rest of the population.  In fact apart from a couple of scenes where it is dramatically expedient, the main prison population is completely ignored.

In the end of course it is the crazy antics of Alex as much as the heroic intervention of Snow that foils the rebellion as he kills off all of the hostages and smashes a lot of equipment and finally even kills his brother and the remaining henchman so that there is no one left to stop him from doing what he wants.  Unfortunately for him Snow turns up and stops him anyway!

Some of the key points in the middle of the movie revolve around the fact that there is only one woman on the station and that the prisoners want to get her so they have to disguise and hide a lot.  But that got me thinking “why are there no women in this prison?” Ok so there are probably less women overall in “supermax” prisons but the only reason for segregating prisoners by gender has been removed by the fact that the prisoners are always asleep except when the prison authorities (or escaping prisoners) decide to wake them so there is no reason why there wouldn’t be women there.

Towards the end of the film is has become obvious that the escape attempt is doomed.  The prison is losing altitude rapidly and only has a few hours until it enters the atmosphere and crashes into the continental US.  The prisoners are totally unaware of this and the agents never once think to use this fact to negotiate or even to try to turn the main body of prisoners against the small group that is running the escape.  The agents decide to blow up the prison so that the small pieces burn up in the atmosphere rather than crash into the USA.  For no apparent reason, this involves a vast fleet of spaceships hurling themselves against the automated defence systems of the space station while, Star Wars style, a bomber flies into a tube and delivers a bomb direct to the centre of the Death Star space prison.  Once the bomb is delivered, all the ships can magically avoid the defence guns and fly away home.  At least 20 pilots and millions of dollars of hardware are wasted because no one had heard of a rocket!  This would all be believable if they had just included a small portion where they discuss the defences and the reasons for placing a bomb just there.  They could even have made a poignant thing out of the pilots willing to sacrifice themselves protecting the puny humans from being squashed by a giant orbiting prison.  But instead it is just another pointless lightshow.  Pretty and diverting but ultimately without substance.

Eventually the prison blows up and by this time boy and girl are both in EVA suits about to leave the space station.  Now Up until this point I’ve more or less had my science sense turned off, I didn’t mind the gravity generator which spins in the middle of the station or any of the other sci-fi nonsense.  Earlier in the movie, our hero had been warned that if he used the EVA suit to escape then he would have to drift around in space waiting for a pickup.  However, almost immediately after the explosion, our pair begin re-entry and then free-fall from higher up than Baumgartner even dreamed of (after removing the hard shell of their suits again FNAR) then, because the girl is knocked out, parachute down to earth on a single chute.  They land, miraculously not only on land but in the US and right next to some cops who seem to know exactly who they are!

There is some kind of rubbish twist at the end where the mean secret service agent turns out to be the good guy and the nice one turns out to be  a traitor.  If at any point in the film we had cared about any of these characters this might have been dramatic but really it doesn’t add anything to the film at all.

Naturally the very end has the president’s daughter falling in love with the hero and walking off into the sunset.


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