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The Cold Light of Day

MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for intense sequences of violence and action, and language.

Reviewed by: Laura Busch

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Action Suspense Thriller
1 hr. 33 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
September 7, 2012 (wide—1,500+ theaters)
DVD: January 29, 2013
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Summit Entertainment

family kidnapped

spies in the Bible

international terrorism


Featuring: Henry CavillWill Shaw
Bruce WillisMartin
Sigourney Weaver
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Director: Mabrouk El Mechri
Producer: Intrepid Pictures
Film Rites
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Distributor: Summit Entertainment

“Instinct is his greatest weapon.”

Will Shaw (Henry Cavill), a struggling business consultant, could never imagine the terror that awaits him and his family, when he jets off to the coast of Spain to join his family on a week long sailing vacation. After arguing with his dad, Will heads to shore to run an errand. Upon returning, Will finds his parents’ boat abandoned and evidence of a struggle.

This young business consultant soon finds himself thrown into a race against the clock to save his family’s lives, after learning from his father (Bruce Willis) that intelligence agents have kidnapped his mother, brother, and his brother’s girlfriend. Will’s dad explains that he has worked for the CIA for many years. Later, they learn from a duplicitous agent, Jean Carrack (Sigourney Weaver) that the kidnappers want a briefcase back that Will’s father seized from them. Now, Will has 24 hours to find the missing briefcase and save his family from being executed by their captors.

Like most films of its genre, “The Cold Light of Day” has a lot violence. For example, there are many fistfights and gunfights throughout the film. There are a few high action car chases, where gunfire is exchanged. One character is executed by a sniper. A man is stabbed. Another character is electrocuted by a taser gun. A man has a car door repeatedly slammed against his body. In another scene, Will is shot in the torso, and a medical student is forced to cauterize his gunshot wound with a burning hot metal utensil. We see Will get slapped in the face and punched in the stomach several times by some intimidating men, who are interrogating him in a back room. Agent Carrack violently drives her car through several street cafés during a high-speed chase. In several scenes, Will has a black eye and several large cuts on his face. Most of this violence is relatively bloodless and not overly graphic, but it is pervasive, with nearly every scene having some kind of action or violence.

The film’s dialog is littered with a number of profanities. There are 1 or 2 uses of the words hell and damn, 1 or 2 uses of the word bitch, and 6 uses of the s-word, and 3 f-words. The Lord’s name is taken in vain several times, and there are approximately 4 uses of the profanity GD throughout the dialog.

“The Cold Light of Day” is cleaner than most film’s of its genre or rating. Unlike so many big action movies, this film does not litter its plot with the usual crude sexual jokes and innuendos, so typical of mainstream cinema. There is no offensive sexual content and virtually no romantic content, save one brief kiss between Will’s brother and his brother’s girlfriend, while they’re on the deck of the boat. I am happy to report that this film is void of any bedroom scenes, as well. The film’s story remains focused on Will’s relentless pursuit to save his family. It is refreshing to see a PG-13 film with a plot that remains focused on the central conflict of the story, and does not reinforce or inject the world’s warped ideologies concerning romantic relationships into the story.

Will’s love for—and loyalty to—his family is another positive aspect of this film. This love can be seen in the fervor with which he pursues the kidnappers. He will stop at nothing to find his family and save them from being killed.

Even though Will and his father argue a bit, it is clear that they both truly love and respect each other. Will apologizes to his dad for getting angry at him over dinner. In another scene, his dad tells him that he is a “good son.”

The genuine and caring friendship that Will develops with Lucia (Veronica Echegui), a woman he meets while trying to rescue his family, is another positive element of the plot.

From a cinematic standpoint, “The Cold Light of Day” falls short in many ways. Its story makes a feeble attempt to capitalize on the success of the “Bourne” film franchise, but its overly clichéd and meandering plot plays more like a poorly written episode of a network television drama, rather than a big screen action-spy thriller.

The story’s basic premise has the potential to be a fun action spy-flick, but ultimately “The Cold Light of Day” suffers from a thin storyline that lacks depth. I wish that more time had been spent developing the relationships between Will and his family. The film also lacks a compelling antagonist, because the screenwriters never establish what the antagonists’ real motive is for getting the briefcase back, and why they are willing to kill for it. The screenwriters barely allude to what may be contained in the briefcase.

Even though the character of Will is underdeveloped, actor Henry Cavill does a decent job of portraying a shocked and frightened civilian, who must save his family and fight his way through the cutthroat spy world. This film also serves as a nice introduction to British actor, Cavill, who will be starring in the “Superman” reboot due for release next year.

This film relies heavily on the “beat-the-clock” plot device, but the story does not succeed in keeping viewers on the edges of their seats. It did not hold my interest in the same way that other comparable films like the 2004 action thriller, “Cellular” or the “Bourne” films did. The thin and meandering story doesn’t really seem to go anywhere and is only mildly entertaining. The whole thing becomes a bit tedious and boring after a certain point.

While I appreciate that “The Cold Light of Day” remains free of offensive sexual content, its dialog is still peppered with too much foul language, and there is a quite a bit of violence. I do not recommend running out to the theater to see this movie, but if you are looking for an action flick “The Cold Light of Day” is certainly a much cleaner choice than “Lawless,” which is also in theaters now. I certainly do not recommend this movie to children, but I suggest that potential viewers of appropriate age wait for it to be released on DVD/Blu-Ray or skip it all together

Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Moderate to heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

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