Film Review: Banal Sci-Fi Action Thriller “Lockout” (2012)

lockout 2012 movie poster one sheetThis is a republication of a film review I wrote for when this Luc Besson mess was first released. It’s now seeing a resurgence of interest from the Netflix crowd so I thought sharing it here would be helpful for people poised to waste two hours of their lives watching this daft mess of a sci-fi thriller…

Let me cut to the chase: I am a Luc Besson fan and love both action movies and science fiction films, but this one is just awful. So bad that I am going to pan it here and share all sorts of spoilers, so if for some reason you actually want to watch this mess of a sci-fi film, well, move on to the next entry on my site now, before I ruin some element of the laughably inane storyline.


Good. Here’s the basic story: The United States has created MS-1, a huge prison orbiting the Earth and at capacity with just under 500 hardcore prisoners, even though it’s still not yet fully online. Huh? In a brief nod to The Island, we learn that there’s more to the setup than just having prisoners frozen in stasis for 25-30 years, but there are actually two different conspiracy subplots that come and go so quickly that I might have been hallucinating in a desperate attempt to have a more interesting movie plotline. We’re also supposedly 75 years in the future, but people are still using cell phones running Windows for Mobile, first generation iPads as digital tablets and microSD cards to store secret information.

The whole “prisoners in stasis” concept begs the first of many, many questions: If these prisoners are all going to be in long term stasis, why go through the expense and hassle of having them in space? I mean, surely a reclaimed salt mine in South Dakota would work just as well and cost a few zillion dollars less?

The lead in the film is Snow (an atypically unlikeable Guy Pearce), a CIA operative who has been falsely accused of murdering an Army general and is convicted and sentenced to — surprise! — 25 years of stasis imprisonment on MS-1.

Meanwhile, first daughter Emilie (Maggie Grace) has flown up to MS-1 to interview a prisoner about his conditions, even though the facility is theoretically still not yet fully online and even though the prisoners are all supposed to be in deep sleep.

The bad guy being interviewed is cliché Irish psycho Hydell (Joseph Gilgun), who goes bonkers and breaks free of his constraints, kills the security people and within about 90 seconds has freed every one of the 495 other prisoners from stasis. As you might expect, all heck breaks loose and Emilie is quickly rounded up, along with some other hostages, without anyone realizing she’s the President’s daughter.

lockout 2012 publicity still movie photo
Snow (Pearce) and Emilie (Grace), from “Lockout”

Back on Earth Snow has been prepped for stasis and transport to MS-1 and is unconscious. Then he’s not! He’s being told by his CIA colleague Shaw (Lennie James) that if he’s willing to go up to the floating prison and rescue the first daughter, he won’t be frozen for decades. Guess what he decides? Yes, shades of Escape from New York, so much so that the production team was sued by Escape director John Carpenter for plagiarism. Oops.

Luc Besson has made some really terrific action movies, including The Fifth Element, The Professional, The Transporter, and even some sloppy but enjoyable actioners like From Paris with Love and District B13, but Lockout is the biggest mess he’s had his name associated with in years. The action sequences are illogical, there are constant continuity gaffes, the story is idiotic to the point of making me wonder if they ever had anyone else read the script before principle filming started, and even the ostensible romance between Snow, who is a complete jerk and thoroughly unlikeable, and spoiled whinger Emilie just isn’t credible.

Most everyone involved with this film has done better work, but there are two directors credited, James Mather — who has never directed a film before — and Stephen St. Leger who… ready for this? also has never directed a film before. Sorry, guys, I can only hope that your next film is actually a watchable movie.

Lockout’ is a train wreck and I wasn’t the only person in the theater who breathed a sigh of relief when we had our final cliché fade to black and could walk out of the theater into the fresh air. Worth your time? No. No it’s not.

Dad At The Movies Addendum: Don’t you have better things to spend time doing with your children than watching this sort of junk? Seriously, go outside and play frisbee, take the dog for a walk, watch them skateboard at the park. Anything. Is it suitable for younger audiences? Sure, if your goal is to teach them not to be discerning in their viewing habits!

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