Films must be of a certain calibre to be worth watching, and writer-director Daniel Zelik Berk’s political spy thriller Damascus Cover falls short of this. An adaptation of Howard Kaplan’s 1977 eponymous novel co-written with Samantha Newton, the feature takes place in Syria during the final months of the Berlin Wall. Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as the angst-ridden rough-voiced Israeli Hans Hoffman – real name Ari Ben-Sion – who is on an undercover mission under the guise of a carpet-buying businessman, attempting to retrieve a valued chemical weapons scientist from Syria, code-named The Angel.
Hoffman is overtly expositional within the first few minutes, in which there is also a fight scene. The director’s timing initially prevents the movie from producing nuanced tones, inhibiting viewers from investing interest, let alone any emotion. Olivia Thirlby as Kim, the sometimes solemn, sometimes flirtatious love interest, provides a little downtime during the film – a respite from this feature’s muddled Middle Eastern politics – but her character is soon turned on its head in a twist that desperately attempts to keep the viewers intrigued.
Aside from the picturesque aerial shots across Israel, Morocco and Germany by cinematographer Chloe Thomson, and an affecting original score by Henry Escott, Damascus Cover lacks originality and passion. Myers gives a satisfactory performance of a troubled father suffering internally after the loss of his son – pallid, drinking a lot and eating nothing – but the predictable plot progressions and jerky bland script stop Berk’s picture from burgeoning into something greater. The last feature of John Hurt’s career, this is not enough to uphold the movie to the levels of other cinematic works of the same genre, like the Bourne or Mission Impossible franchises. This is a sleeper film that you may want to pass on.
Damascus Cover is released in select cinemas on 3rd August 2018.
Watch the trailer for Damascus Cover here: