I’ve always had an intense desire to be fierce. Strong. Independent. Able to work as a spy or fighter pilot if I wanted to.
I don’t mind if you cringed. I cringe, too.
Recently, an interviewer told me I was too soft for a job. I’m positive I wasn’t hired solely because I couldn’t demonstrate my work experience had included enough confrontation.
For the most part, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have poor eyesight (no Naval aerial exploits), am a fairly paranoid person (my anxiety would out me as a spy), and that the conniving could walk all over my empathetic personality.
But back in 2019, I was dealing with some major mental health issues and still very much clinging to the idea that one day I would be some badass fighter in a foreign country.
So, I lived vicariously through movies and TV shows such as Close (2019), starring Noomi Rapace, The Widow, starring Kate Beckinsale, and Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan (the John Krasinksi version on Amazon Prime Video).
The following movie review is the fruit of that time in my life.
NB: Spoilers ahead.
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Thanks to Stranger Things, Kate Bush’s 1985 song “Running Up That Hill” has soared to the top of the charts in multiple countries.
Personally, I’m proud to say I “discovered” this song several years before Gen Z when the Candy Says and Marc Canham version rolled the intro credits of Close (2019), starring Noomi Rapace.
A Netflix original, Close follows a personal bodyguard, Sam (Noomi Rapace), charged with guarding Zoe (Sophie Nelisse) who is the spoiled heiress of Hassine Mining for trip to Morocco. Zoe’s father recently died, leaving her the company and effectively cutting off Zoe’s stepmother, Rima Hassine (Indira Varma). With Rima battling a competitor Chinese mining company for a lucrative mining deal in Zambia, Zoe and Sam find themselves fighting for their lives embroiled in a conspiracy to bring down Hassine Mining. When Rima appears to abandon Zoe for dead, Sam protects Zoe until the end, despite no contractual obligation to do so.
Close received mixed reviews (IMDb lists a rating of only 5.7), which makes sense. Rapace’s performance shines, but the plot and dialogue feel underdeveloped compared to the numerous bloody action scenes.
For example, why was it necessary for Zoe to travel to Morocco in the first place? If Hassine Mining was Rima’s family’s company, then how did Zoe’s father manage to control it? How did sheltered Zoe learn to speak Arabic and French while Sam, who clearly works frequently in the Middle East, speak only English?
At one point, Sam buys Zoe a wig to hide her identity, a hopeless task for a Caucasian woman in Morocco, where a burka or hijab and niqab would be preferable. When another bodyguard delivers replacement passports to the pair, he fails to notice he was followed, which results in his death and another kidnapping attempt. Shouldn’t he have been smarter than that?
As far as character development goes, Rima — painted as the evil stepmom — lacks the nuance to flesh out what could either be her grief or greed over Hassine Mining. Adding in brief backgrounds of some of the kidnappers and assassins could have added depth and intrigue. But again, the focus is on the fight scenes.
These flaws are disappointing given that action movies with a female lead, indeed all female leads, are hard to come by. Obviously, female bodyguards and special ops characters are fewer and farther between largely given the nature of their work.
Still, Sam demonstrates how women can make up their smaller physique and lesser strength with quick reflexes, perfect timing, and sheer will. Her character, after all is based on a real-life bodyguard, Jackie Davis. Impressively, Rapace performed all the stunts herself.
In the end, if you can stand the action-heavy plot and the awkward conversations, it’s worth the wait to watch Sam and Zoe’s relationship transform from mutual disgust to dependence for survival. Sam, the hardened mercenary who doesn’t ask questions, slowly softens as her maternal instincts to protect Zoe awaken. And Zoe, the entitled yet naïve rich girl, matures as she’s forced to take control of her own life. Ultimately, each would have died for the other (and if it wasn’t a movie — at least one of them probably would have).
Sam won’t go so far as to say that her and Zoe are friends. But the deep bond formed between them while struggling for their survival is evidence of the human capacity for love, loyalty, and resilience. It’s a sentiment aptly summed up by Kate Bush’s lyrics: “If I only could, I would make a deal with God and get him to swap our places. I’d be running up that road, running up that hill, running up that building.”
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And if you’ve made it this far, I’m proud to have looped you in to a movie review that has almost nothing to do with this post’s title.