The Numbers Station tells the story of Emerson Kent (John Cusack) who failed in his previous mission and gets another chance to prove that he still has what it takes to keep his job as a CIA agent.
His new mission is to guard Katherine (Malin Akerman), code operator at a top-secret remote CIA “Numbers Station” where coded messages are sent and received.
But a team of heavily armed assailants occupy the Numbers Station.
Emerson and Katherine are trapped inside and find themselves in a tight fix. As they figure out how to escape with their lives, the professional relationship between Emerson and Katherine becomes too personal and in the process compromises Emerson’s mission.
Unfortunately, the story hits a wall when it sidesteps to develop the romance angle. In one particular adrenaline-pumping scene where the two lovers are racing against time to cypher a code, the suspense suddenly falls flat as they talk about each other's personality.
That’s just one of the film’s misses as a suspense-thriller.
There are some loose ends in the script, like too many actions going on simultaneously, resulting in incoherence and failure to convey its main message to the audience.
For instance, it starts by focusing on the protagonist’s dilemma with his job and his conscience. Suddenly the focus veers away from the character and the mood shifts to piecing together a mystery.
Instead of crating suspense, the atmosphere is gloomy; the lighting, often dark. Put these all together and the movie becomes so serious, it’s a bit depressing.
Some redeeming factors manage, however, to save The Numbers Station from becoming a complete disaster.
It provides a glimpse of the sometimes tedious routine, but nonetheless crucial job, of a secret agent.
It also succeeds in conveying the conflicts that some agents probably go through, like the need to fulfill their mission while coming to terms with their conscience.
You may get disappointed if you're looking forward to hi-tech gadgets and death-defying stunts in this film, like most spy movies.
Obviously not a big-budget movie, it compensates by working on its suspense factor, which succeeds in some of the scenes.
The engaging performance of the lead stars is laudable.
John Cusack credibly lends realism to his role as a secret agent.
Malin Akerman, Swedish-Canadian actress who portrayed Silk Spectre II in Watchmen (2009), brings a refreshing breeze to this highly serious movie. The screen seems to light up every time she appears.
The Numbers Station might not make a lasting impression, but it proves that John Cusack can reliably deliver any role he takes. Malin Akerman could make it big in Hollywood.
Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial staff.