Netflix’s Close is an action film that succeeds in crafting authentic female characters.
Written and directed by Vicky Jewson, Close was inspired by the life of female bodyguard Jacquie Davis. The character-driven action thriller tells a story of survival and the destructive actions of corporate greed. But tied to all this are two female characters who are complex and whose relationship is the film’s foundation.
Close opens with the film’s protagonist, Sam (Noomi Rapace), in the middle of a war zone. As a counter-terrorism expert, this is what she’s used to. But she is taken out of her usual element when she is assigned to essentially babysit the spoiled heiress Zoe (Sophie Nélisse), who is to inherit the fortune of her father’s mining company. Sam expresses her paranoia to Zoe about a possible kidnapping, but Zoe explains that her safehouse, or “prison” as she refers to it, has top notch security. Sam’s paranoia becomes a reality when the safehouse’s security system is hacked, resulting in a violent cat and mouse game with Sam and Zoe going on the run from the kidnappers, while also spying on them to figure out who is behind the scheme.
Jewson’s action film has all the typical genre elements: an adrenaline-pumping narrative, with sequences featuring a strong mix of realism and brutality. While this may be enough for some, she adds something more which is often lacking in the genre: female characters that are actually written well.
Right from the opening sequence, viewers get a sense of what Rapace’s Sam can do with a gun. And with Nélisse, Jewson presents a rising star who has significantly grown up since her role in The Book Thief (2013). Together, there’s a character dynamic that shouldn’t work, but it grows into a friendship that changes the two characters.
Zoe has gone most of her teenage life without any positive female role models. The only one she has, her step-mother, Rima (Indira Varma), is antagonistic towards her through most of the film. So, it’s no surprise that she expects Sam to show no care whatsoever, as it’s suggested that she wants nothing but sex like her last bodyguard. While Sam’s impenetrable exterior does create animosity between the two, she slowly breaks down her walls as she becomes closer to Zoe. Both actresses portray their characters with vulnerability that propels their relationship forward, which results in an emotional final act. There is genuine tenderness that builds between the two, which is felt throughout the entirety of the film.
Jewson proves that she is a writer-director to watch out for. Not only has she managed to write a film that’s entertaining, but she also fills it with depth, too. While Close does drag at points, the crafting of the characters — and the way their relationship develops on screen — makes up for it. Jewson’s direction is perfectly complemented by Malte Rosenfeld’s cinematography — both tight and precise, bringing out the tenderness between the two leads through close-ups.
Close proves to be a great piece of entertainment. The vibrant and explosive opening credits sequence sets the tone for an action-packed story that truly feels real and allows women to feel empowered.
Sara Clements (@mildredsfierce) is a freelance writer and journalism major based in Canada. She’s also an editor for Much Ado About Cinema. Sara loves film of varying genres, but her penchant lies with Classic Hollywood.