Film Review: Erased

Well-done, gripping international thriller, starring the underrated Aaron Eckhart.

Ex-CIA operative Ben Logan (Aaron Eckhart) finds himself in Belgium, where he works for the Halgate Group, a company which specializes in security-breaching devices supposedly in the name of good, not evil. He lives with his recalcitrant teenage daughter Amy (Liana Liberato), who knows nothing about his career past but is full of attitude over his separation from her mother, who has since died of a terminal illness. When Ben discovers one day that his entire identity at the firm has been somehow obliterated, he realizes that dark forces are afoot. Focusing on what he knows about a shady arms deal with warring African tribes, specifically a stolen document incriminating the company, he and Amy go on the run.

Although a definite genre piece, the combination of Arash Amel’s convoluted but involving screenplay, Philipp Stoelzl’s sure-handed helming, and some brisk editing make Erased one of the more intelligent and gripping international thrillers of recent years. Stoelzl cracks an effective whip over the proceedings, with events slamming at you so fast you barely have time to register any too-obvious plot contrivances as you join Ben and Amy on their breathless escape from a band of particularly bloodthirsty pursuers. It’s as violent as hell, but the violence is always mercifully swift. The Brussels locations lend effectively evocative flavor with their brooding, gray skies and slightly scary, ancient architecture contrasted with sleek, modern sterility.

Eckhart, never craggier, manages to be highly convincing in a difficult role that requires him to be something of a shape-shifter, replete with ever newly revealed skills in foreign languages, lethal physical force, lock-picking and bomb-making. His gravitas and emotional range are welcome here. You wonder if he was ever a candidate for the role of James Bond, which I think he could have carried off quite well. With a rather impossible character, Liberato does what she can: Amy is a whiny brat, the type that snottily refuses her father’s offer of food (“I don’t eat sweets, Dad!”) and then relents and munches away, only to scream, “This has nuts in it? You’re the worst dad ever!” before succumbing to an allergic reaction. The thought may occur to you that he’d be better off leaving her in the hands of the terrorists who’ve slaughtered all of his co-workers. Olga Kurylenko is okay in the kind of part she could sleepwalk through, an enigmatic Russian mole, but Garrick Hagon, arching his beetle eyebrows, has a distinct grade-B actor whiff about him as the nefarious honcho-in-chief, Halgate.