Boy 7 (2015, Netherlands)

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 03/11/15 11:42:21

"There's a 'Baby Bourne' joke to be made, but I don't speak the language."
3 stars (Average)

SCREENED AT THE 2015 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: It's probably best to disclose this up front rather than as a "hey, guess what?" thing at the end: Through some sort of series of miscommunications and other slip-ups, "Boy 7" was shown without subtitles, and rescheduling was more or less impossible what with the blizzards that hit New England that month. Given the choice of seeing it that way and not seeing it all after dragging myself out in the snow, I bought some popcorn and settled in. Please keep the fact that I don't speak Dutch in mind if you continue reading, perhaps pondering the question of whether the fact that I feel confident enough to write the review owes to director Lourens Blok doing a fine job of communicating through action and visuals or the story itself just being predictable enough that you don't need to hear the words.

It starts, more or less, with a young man (Matthijs van de Sande Bakhuyzen) regaining consciousness on the subway just before all hell breaks loose. His memory lost, he escapes with Lara (Ella-June Henrard), a girl who possesses the same extraordinary urban combat skills he does and tells him that his name is Sam. Between what she tells him and a journal he apparently handed off for safekeeping, he discovers that they were juvenile offenders with high-level skills (he was a hacker) trained to be super-agents, although Sam, Lara, and Sam's roommate Louis (Yannick Jozefzoon) smelled a rat and attempted to plot an escape.

This all comes in flashbacks that I presume are triggered by Sam reading his diary, although it's a bit of a toss-up as to whether those memories returning in such clear, linear fashion or the diary being phenomenally detailed is more unlikely. It's not actually a bad storytelling device, but it creaks at times - there is certainly more than one moment when Sam seems to be writing in the notebook because he expects to lose his memory at some point in the near future. Given the apparent brainwashing going on, it's not a totally unreasonable idea, although one would think he'd highlight certain things. To be fair, they are things that the perfectly obvious to the audience well before Sam catches on, so maybe he just had a higher expectation of his own intelligence than screenwriters Marco van Geffen and Philip del Maar (working from a novel by Mirjam Mous) did.

The material is fairly standard and not always that well thought out - if I were a fascist training bright, rebellious kids to become spies, my secret training facility would have a heck of a lot more security, starting with cameras and microphones in the dorm rooms - but Blok does a fair job executing. He stages the action well, makes the tradecraft look clever, and even makes computer hacking clear enough that the audience knows what is going on without making sure Sam explains it to someone who probably already knows what he's doing. The cinematography by Jasper Wolf has a slick, unabashedly digital look that fits the subject matter, and manages to move quickly without making the audience dizzy.

The young cast seems fairly appealing as well. The obvious caveat applies, but Matthijs van de Sande Bakhuyzen makes a good enough leading man for this sort of movie, quite amiable despite our not knowing that much about him and being sort of reined in to broaden that appeal. Ella-June Henrard is in the same sort of super-capable box, but Yannick Jozefzoon gets to have more fun as the sidekick. Tygo Gernandt is a fine villain as "Zero", with Halina Reijn an interesting counterpart as Sam's hacking tutor.

There are at least two more books in the series, and if they want to adapt them into movies, I wouldn't mind seeing them. I'd just hope they'd be subtitled, is all.

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