In the latter, he again dons gun and badge as Emerson, a black-ops agent for the CIA. When his latest assignment messes with his head (it involved multiple shooting deaths, including one kid), he’s temporarily reassigned to a new, less stressful gig: playing babysitter at Blackleg Minor, an unofficial Army base in England. There, Katherine (Malin Akerman, Rock of Ages) transmits coded messages to field agents working abroad in Europe.
Emerson literally just sits there each shift and is there just in case something bad were to happen, God forbid. If nothing bad ever did, of course, we’d have no movie, so about 20 minutes in, Blackleg Minor is compromised by armed goons, forcing Emerson and Katherine to work hard at staying alive for four hours — the earliest backup can arrive.
The male-female dynamic, the code-breaking center, the run for their lives — it all reminded me strongly of Digital Fortress, the 1998 debut novel of The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown, with one distinct difference: I couldn’t put the book down.
Part of that is because very little of Brown’s adventure took place inside the office; conversely, nearly all of The Numbers Station does, and there’s only so much the duo can do and only so far they can go. With Danish director Kaspar Barfoed failing to orientate his audience spatially to the facility, we don’t have a proper grasp on the complexity of the chase. That leaves the following to generate suspense: talking, typing in numbers, and more talking. After a while, you’ll wonder if the script were adapted from a play.
A dour Cusack appears uncomfortable, while Akerman more than acquits herself, but for what? Credible-looking, but ultimately a chore to sit through, The Numbers Station adds up to very little. —Rod Lott