Review: ‘Chief Of Station’

Aaron Eckhart Is A Former CIA Station Chief Out To Solve His Wife’s Murder

Spy films are often hit or miss. Depending on how simple or complicated the film is can make or break the film. For every Mission Impossible film with Tom Cruise’s high-octane death wish stunts, you can also have a movie that is either too complicated, or too predictable that leaves you scratching your head wondering just why the film was able to come to your screen. Director (and former stunt coordinator) Jessee V Johnson’s latest film Chief of Station tries to toe the line between both ends of the spectrum for spy thrillers as the audience is treated to a spy thriller in solving a murder and seeing how deep the conspiracy goes with it.

Former CIA Station Chief Ben Malloy’s (Aaron Eckhart) wife Farrah (Laëtitia Eïdo), who is also a CIA officer dies in a mysterious explosion in front of him while the two are on a date, but because they both live in the world of espionage, he knows immediately that it was no mere accident. Things continue to not add up with him when his fellow spies are trying to cover up her death and throw her to the wolves. So as a result, he goes rogue to try and uncover why she died, who had to gain, and who was responsible for her death.

Chief of Station starts out strong as we are treated to an opening scene displaying the complexity of how tracking targets and making sure package drops are followed to the letter, or else the target can get away. It’s very reminiscent of spy films of the 80s and 90s with all the Cold War paranoia between the US and Russia, and since politics in the 2020s has the big red scare once again being our enemies, it’s quite timely again. Shortly after we get to see a little bit of Ben and his spycraft, his wife dies and Ben sets it upon himself to try and figure out what’s going on with his wife. So he leaves the States to go to Budapest and he gets sucked back into the world of espionage.

As a former Station Chief, Ben has a “certain set of skills that makes him a nightmare” for those who cross his paths. He does everything from entering a high-stakes game of poker and beating the hell out of anyone crossing him, to try and prove his wife wasn’t a dirty rogue agent. At the same time, Ben has become estranged from his son Nick (Chris Petrovski) since his wife’s death. His son is in France, and while he’s off doing some spy stuff, he can try and reconcile with Nick. Unfortunately, the big baddies draw Nick into the craziness as well.

After what feels like a dozen twists and turns in Chief of Station from betrayals within the spy world, the big baddies are revealed. And of course, they’re exactly who you predicted twenty minutes into the film, and it feels like Ben is on an island by himself. Lucky for him, one of his wife’s former assets (Olga Kurylenko) comes in and she’s just as badass as he is, if not more. She helps him turn the tide of plenty of gun fights and hand-to-hand battles he has to fight to try and save the day.

It’s weird that director Jesse V. Johnson is a former stunt coordinator, because there are so many scenes in Chief of Station that don’t work from a stunt/choreography perspective. There are more than a few scenes where the fighting is sped up to try and make the action a little more believable. The action scenes work well when it comes to car chases and a few of those really are effective. Unfortunately, Chief of Station has challenges when it comes to the script because you can see where it’s going a mile away. It feels like an action film from the 90s as it’s nowhere near as complex as it needs to be in order for the film to be effective. Aaron Eckhart is giving his all performance-wise though and he does deliver, as well as a few supporting characters, especially Olga Kurylenko.

Chief of Station for the most part works and is fun, especially watching Aaron Eckhart get his Liam Neeson on (in a better way than Neeson did for his Brian Mills). Some of the action is effective, but overall, the weak script causes the film to not live up to its fullest potential. If you are a fan of Tom Clancy-esque films, then Chief of Station may work for you

Chief of Station is currently available in theaters and VOD.