With bone-rattling timbre, a ripped physique, and charming British sensibility, it’s no surprise as to why Idris Elba has been touted as a worthy successor to the James Bond throne. Though Beasts of No Nation and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom prove he’s got the dramatic chops to carry on the iconic legacy, we’ve yet to see the London native make a case for himself in the field—on his own—behind the wheel of a gripping action-thriller. While James Watkins’ bullet-riddled The Take, an unabashed attempt to position Elba as a Bond surrogate, is absurdly charted and sloppy, it serves as the actor’s most convincing pitch to snatch the baton if and when Daniel Craig is ready to pass it.
At 6’3’’, Elba is an imposing force in Watkins’ directorial follow-up to 2012’s The Woman In Black. He plays Sean Briar, a brawny, no-nonsense ex-CIA operative grappling with a messy track record and a sketchy lead. Michael (Game of Thrones‘ Richard Madden) is a stealthy American con artist who spends his days on the streets, looting the wallets of strangers and snatching electronics from the pockets of Parisians, when he’s not an accidental terrorist.
After stealing a purse from skittish anarchist Zoe (Charlotte Le Bon), Michael unwittingly decimates an entire city block, plunging the nation into a virtual doomsday of anarchic uproar. It turns out the bag, which he tossed into a trash can after lifting the valuables inside, actually contained a ticking time bomb Zoe planned to detonate from within an abandoned office block. Thus, a citywide manhunt begins, with Sean methodically unwrapping the intricacies of Michael’s involvement as he digs into a larger, far more sinister scheme at play.
Like so many action films of its pedigree, The Take quickly abandons the clever nuances of its intriguing premise and plunges headfirst into a dizzying barrage of lifeless spectacle. Scenes of rooftop chases, car crashes, and angry mobs storming government buildings get their fair shake here, but merely documenting kinetics doesn’t inject an otherwise neglected plot with urgency. Most of The Take’s moving parts feel like spinning cogs, devoid of fit or function.
The Take hits theaters just over a year after terrorist attacks claimed 130 innocent lives in Paris last November. Watkins had a prime opportunity to impart relevant commentary on the ongoing tensions in France —instead, his film flounders in the pursuit. It’s not bold, serious, or smart enough to train its focus on things that don’t pop, flash, or bang.
Still, Elba leaves a lasting impression as the film’s sweet spot. He operates with a slick, casual confidence that pops against dull surroundings. He ultimately serves as the film’s most striking metaphor, when Sean, in pursuit of his target, often barrels aimlessly into passerby and smashes through large panes of glass; he’s doing what it takes to get the job done, but bumbling carelessly in pursuit of a much larger goal. The Take is a fleeting entry in the portfolio of a rising action star, whether he drops into the land of Bond or elsewhere. While it won’t be launching any franchises of its own, The Take makes a strong, calculated case for its headliner to write a new chapter in another. C