In the opening moments of Netflix’s latest summer action flick, Interceptor, we are breathlessly (for a bunch of narrative captions, anyway) informed of the two missile defense sites capable of stopping nuclear attack on the United States. One is located at Fort Freely in Alaska. The other is at the much cooler-sounding SBX-1, a missile defense platform in the middle of the ocean. Can you guess where the movie chose to take place? Interceptor, which acts a little bit like the distant cousin to another of the streamer’s brawny action flicks, Extraction, actually stars Elsa Pataky, the wife of Chris Hemsworth, and she makes a good showing for herself in a film that easily could’ve worked in the genre’s glory years of the ’80s and ’90s.
Pataky, who was for a time a fixture of the Fast & Furious franchise, puts on a one-woman-show kicking terrorist ass and stopping nuclear annihilation. It’s the kind of over-the-top throwback that has found new life on streaming services. Pataky’s character, Captain JJ Collins, has a backstory that your Stallones and Schwarzeneggers never had to content with. JJ saw her military career derailed when she reported a vile general for sexual harassment. The top brass didn’t believe her, and so she’s been kicked down to SBX-1 where she can be out of sight, out of mind. But after a series of coordinated attacks ends with 16 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) stolen from Russia, and everyone at Fort Greevy murdered, JJ is called back into action when SBX-1 becomes the country’s last line of defense.
Interceptor is interesting in that it’s part rescue movie and part siege thriller, where JJ is holed up in a single location fighting off assassins while working to keep the defense system up and running. This leads to a lot of self-contained fights, including a nice kung-fu inspired battle near the beginning, and plenty of shootouts in tight spaces. But there’s also the counting clock, as JJ has to contend with an enemy that is melting through the reinforced doors and into the room where she and timid colleague Shah (Mayen Mehta), and toxic male a-hole Beaver (Aaron Glenane) are holed up.
The villain is played by Point Break remake star Luke Bracey, and as Alexander Kessel he makes for an intriguing foil. While I would’ve liked to see him be more maniacal in a Gary Busey sort of way, Kessel’s head games twist JJ into knots. With 16 nuclear missiles aimed at 16 different U.S. cities, he’s clearly a traitor to his country. But Kessel plays into JJ’s mistreatment by the military to try and turn her to his side. But Kessel also represents a white male, extremist view that we see permeating the discourse today. But JJ represents what the country really looks like today. The defender of America and all it stands for is a woman capable of defeating any man who comes her way. Co-writer/director Matthew Reilly (who was nearly replaced on the film as it’s his directing debut) leaps in with both feet on the action tropes and wild American patriotism, but it works as a counterpoint to Kessel’s twisted vision.
And defeat them she does. Pataky impresses in the physicality aspect, breaking bones and faces with equal measure. While her one-liner delivery comes off a bit stiff, she has the cool hero poses down pat. At one point, when faced with a seemingly far superior foe, she simply brushes off the moment and blows a strand of hair out of her face. Pataky’s training each day involved incorporation of her husband’s workout routine, and it shows. She looks like a badass who could take down Thor if she wanted to. Speaking of which, Hemsworth keeps popping up in a silly comic relief role and while it was a distraction at first, I have to admit it made me chuckle for being so unnecessary.
Interceptor leans hard on cliches, and I actually think it could’ve pushed harder to make Kessel a more fearsome nemesis. The final showdown ends up being pretty weak compared to the escalation, and might’ve been rushed due to this being one of Netflix’s smaller-budgeted action flicks. The film proves to be a strong showcase for Pataky, who will hopefully get bigger spotlight roles out of this. I could Netflix wanting to do more of them. The world does always need saving, after all.
Interceptor is streaming now on Netflix.