Fresh off the success of Bodyguard, Netflix is leaning into the genre of Sexy People Protecting Other Sexy People. Hence, Close, an action thriller film written and directed by Vicky Jewson (Born of War), and inspired by the real-life story of Jacquie Davis, who became the United Kingdom’s first known female bodyguard in the early 1980s.
Noomi Rapace plays Sam Carlson, a hardened bodyguard and counter-terrorism expert who avoids dealing with personal problems by burying herself in her work. But when she gets a call for a job acting as personal security for young heiress Zoe Tanner (Sophie Nélisse), whose father’s sudden death has made her a major stakeholder in the family mining company, Sam only reluctantly accepts. A “rich kid with mommy issues,” she says, isn’t exactly a challenge for a woman used to single-handedly fending off ISIS fighters in war zones.
Regardless, off they go to Morocco, where stepmother Rima Hassin (Indira Varma) is supervising production while trying to close a high profile deal against a rival company. This so-called babysitting job quickly turns into a fight for survival for Sam when armed men storm the compound in an attempt to kidnap Zoe, forcing them to go on the run.
The idea of highlighting the unique challenges faced by the still-few women bodyguards feels novel and exciting. Unfortunately, despite raw, visceral action scenes shot compellingly by Malte Rosenfeld, the film gets too caught up in convoluted plot twists, which dull their impact.
Davis served as a consultant on the film, and her expertise shows in a series of shockingly savage fight scenes between Sam, Zoe and the men chasing them. In one particularly jarring sequence, civilian Zoe desperately defends herself from an attacker and would-be rapist by strangling him with a chain hanging from a van ceiling.
Close’s biggest success lies in Jewson’s commitment to depicting the toll — physical and mental — of this kind of constant assault. When these women fight, they bleed. Scratches and bruises don’t magically disappear after a couple of minutes, nor do Zoe and Sam happen to find designer clothes and stilettos buried in a Moroccan souk. In that sense, Close is an action film in the vein of Atomic Blonde, which starred Charlize Theron as Lorraine Broughton, a British spy on a mission in Cold War Berlin. The 2017 movie made waves for the unprecedented way it depicted a woman viciously getting beaten up on the job — a situation that would usually leave James Bond with his bow-tie slightly askew.
The problem is that Close really doesn’t give Rapace much character to work with. There’s nothing much to detect, or relate to, beneath this loner’s stoic, impassive exterior. And without that emotional grounding, the violence is stale, and a little numbing.
What’s more, Sam and Zoe’s relationship is oddly rushed. The cheesy emotional climax, when Zoe finally breaks through to Sam after finding out the latter has been withholding personal information from her while they’ve been trying to, you know, not die, comes after too little build-up. And what a waste of Varma, who, as Rima, had the potential to be just as deliciously full of intrigue as her seductive but deadly Game of Thrones character, Ellaria Sand. Instead, she’s relegated to the sidelines, a passive actor in a story she should dominate.
Close can’t quite decide where it wants to go, and rather than committing to one narrative strand, scatters many,hoping that one ending will stick. And in that sense, the film really does echo the viral Bodyguard, which floundered after the big twist in its third episode. But while Close is almost certainly more technically accurate in its depiction of bodyguards, not to mention the trauma they can sustain on the job, it lacks the addictive, binge-worthy qualities that made its successor so jaw-twitchingly appealing.