Lockout jammed by implausibility

From the studio that brought you The Grey earlier this year comes a thriller that is literally out of this world. Starring Guy Pearce (Memento) and Maggie Grace (Taken), Lockout, a film about a maximum security prison in outer space, premiered on April 13. Unfortunately, while the movie’s premise certainly shoots for the stars, viewers may be less than thrilled about its flat acting and implausible storyline.

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Taking place in the year 2079, the plot revolves around MS: One, a prison located in orbit around Earth on account of it housing the world’s most dangerous criminals. In order to ensure that there are no breakouts, gang fights or problems of any kind, the inmates are put into cryogenic sleeping-pods upon arrival, and stay like that for the duration of their sentence. This method seems to work well until the President’s daughter (Grace) comes aboard to investigate rumors of inhumane treatment on the comatose prisoners, and sets off a chain of events that leads to the massive breakout of every inmate onboard. Now, it is up to an ex-CIA gunman (Pearce) to go up into space and rescue the First Daughter, all while avoiding the hundreds of homicidal murderers who seek to use her as a bargaining chip.

Lockout’s first mistake is to not taking advantage of its own setting. A prison in space may not be the most original idea of all time, but it still offers the chance to showcase some awesome spaceship battles, or at least a few sweet space jumps. Instead, this film chooses to have most of the action take place inside the prison, with maybe a few windows here and there to remind audiences that it is not actually on Earth. There even appears to be gravity within the space station, a fact that is casually explained by the presence of some sort of futuristic generator. Of course, there are the scenes when the characters must find a way both on and then off the station, but these are disappointingly fleeting.

Another way that Lockout fails to deliver is in the fact that most of its plot is built around pure coincidence and implausibility. The mass prisoner breakout is seemingly unplanned, so the fact that it occurs on the same day that the President’s daughter visits might stretch the limits of believability. In addition, Lockout certainly does a great job of showing its protagonists fighting against all odds in situations that are surely inescapable. But then they escape. Most of the time without a scratch. Regardless of whether this is just what the director considers to be engaging cinema, or simply the result of laziness on the part of the writers, Lockout could really use a lot more plot structure and a lot less of characters magically shaking off every life-threatening injury that happens to them.

Despite all of these shortcomings, there are a few strong performances that manage to shine through the script they have to work with. English actor Joseph Gilgun (Harry Brown) will undoubtedly produce a chill or two with his portrayal of the maniacally unhinged inmate that ignites the prisoner uprising. Sadly, Pearce and Grace manage to have only a small amount of believable chemistry, due once again to the unrealistic plot that brings them together.

Overall, Lockout fails to reach beyond the basic action-thriller template, and this may cause a loss of interest from viewers. Sporting caricatures rather than characters, as well as a plot that may seem just boring at points, this film takes on the role of simple filler before the summer blockbuster season.