There are few things as exciting as an agent gone rogue, and if we’re to believe what Hollywood says, there probably aren’t any agents who haven’t gone rogue at some point in their career. Though probably not true, this concept does lead to some truly excellent films.
The formula is simple, requiring only some intelligence agent or military personnel who drops the loyalties and code of conduct they were trained under, and uses their skills for their own benefit apart from, and even against, the agency that trained them. But many of these movies go well beyond that formula, weaving complex tales involving double-crosses and a story shrouded in mystery. Throw in some awesome fight scenes and it really is no wonder these movies are so loved.
Another of these films releases this week, when Jeremy Renner stars as Aaron Cross in The Bourne Legacy. In honour of the film, I’ve compiled a list of my top ten agent gone rogue films.
Check it out below.
10. Game of Death
Though not the most critically acclaimed of Wesley Snipes’ films, I thought Game Of Death was one of the best rogue agent films in some time. The fight scenes are exceptional, as Snipes’ usually are, and Gary Daniels gave a surprisingly impressive performance.
This film makes me more nervous about the security of The United States government than I would like to be. The ease with which Snipes is framed as the rogue agent is absolutely alarming, mainly because the frame and its results are carried out in such a believable way and are so effective at distracting attention away from the real crimes. I shudder to think of a situation like this actually happening.
There is no effort to hide the questions that Snipes and his co-stars hold about the CIA’s methods and intentions either. The film begins with Snipes confessing to a priest these doubts, saying how he used to believe in the greater good, but has lost faith over time.
Game of Death also does a great job of summing up the genre when one character asks “CIA gone bad eh?” and is answered with “I never knew a good CIA.”
9. Safe House
Safe House begins over a decade after CIA agent Tobin Frost first went rogue. When he shows up at a US Embassy in Cape Town, all those involved know there must be more to the story. Turns out the CIA aren’t the only ones looking for Frost either, which leads to Ryan Reynolds’ character Matt Weston and Frost having to rely on each other if they wish to escape alive.
Granted, for those well versed in this genre, the plot twists won’t be viewed as much of a surprise at all, but that still doesn’t take much away from the quality of the film. The chase scenes are awesome, keeping a level of realism that CIA movies sometimes lose, and the action is all completely thrilling.
Ryan Reynolds gives a brilliant performance as an agent struggling to decide what is right, yet still find a way to make his mark, an internal struggle that he translates so well to the screen. Denzel Washington provides a deep, multi-layered villain, the complexity of which leaves you questioning whether you hate the guy or you pity him.
Unlikely allies, forced to band together, is one of the most common modes to convey the question of who or what really defines right and wrong, a question so frequently posed by films of this genre. The struggle involved with that question is the main reason this film is so successful.
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