SAS: Red Notice is Outlander star Sam Heughan’s Bond audition
With Daniel Craig’s final Bond movie on the horizon, it’s that time again where every British leading man fields questions about whether they would like to take over. This week it’s the turn of Outlander star Sam Heughan, who raised the issue in an interview with Esquire Magazine. He’s the right age, has a strong fanbase, and appears to have an audition tape in the form of new Sky Cinema action film SAS: Red Notice.
He plays Tom, a man from a wealthy background who has forged a career as an elite SAS operative. Having lived for his job until now, his view on the future is changed as he plans to propose to his girlfriend Sophie (Hannah John-Kamen) in Paris.
En route to The City of Love, however, he finds that an old enemy Grace (Ruby Rose) has highjacked the train and is holding it hostage in The Channel Tunnel. With her team involved in a corrupt government mission, Tom’s superiors are keen to simply eliminate Grace along with innocent passengers. It’s up to him to save Sophie and the passengers, while also rooting out the comrades working against him.
Aside from very official sounding SAS language, this is Die Hard On The Eurostar (or ‘”Eurostream”, as presumably the real company didn’t fancy seeing their trains blown up). The set-up is very similar, right down to our hero being in the toilet when the terrorists board, and relies on the same convenient twists of fate to keep the plot going.
Coincidences are part of the action genre, however. What’s less forgivable is the grunty, stilted dialogue and TV drama production values. A military head honcho (Andy Serkis) screams “What are you, the head of a farrrkin’ knittin’ circle?”, while Heughan has a ropey quip for every occasion. There’s a lot of star quality on display, but there’s only so much you can do.
Recognisable faces pop up here and there – Noel Clarke, who had a role in Sky’s February release Twist, appears as Tom’s superior; Tom Wilkinson drops by for a couple of scenes as Grace’s father; and Tom Hopper (The Umbrella Academy) brings some machismo as Tom’s best friend. Serkis is used sporadically, but makes an impression each time as the man with the ear of the Prime Minister, and while it’s missing his usual nuance, he creates the right level of intimidation.
Having made waves as TV’s Batwoman last year, Ruby Rose is impressive as the cold-hearted villain. There’s a loose narrative thread from the Andy McNab-penned script about people needing to be without feeling to exist in this world, and Rose fits the bill with strong action scenes and a great range of villainous stares. John-Kamen becomes the film’s secondary hero (handily, Sophie is a doctor more than equipped to help the hostages), as well as the film’s moral centre as she melts Heughan’s hard exterior.
As for the star himself, he’s the archetypal square-jawed action hero. There isn’t enough in the script to showcase any 007 charm, but he certain knows his way around a fight scene and has the right kind of presence. Those looking for omens will be interested to know Pierce Brosnan made a similar film, 1993’s Death Train, prior to stepping into the tuxedo.
Like Sky’s own TV series Strike Back and numerous other SAS-inspired dramas, SAS: Red Notice is a glossy, testosterone-filled ride that will pass an evening for those who love their action big and blunt. It’s unlikely to guarantee Heughan’s casting as the world’s greatest secret agent, but it won’t do him any harm either.
SAS: Red Notice is available on Sky Cinema from 12th March