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Chief of Station (2024) Review

Ben Malloy (Aaron Eckhart, The Dark Knight, Ambush) is the CIA’s Chief of Station for The Baltics. Or at least he was until, in the film’s opening minutes, his wife Farrah (Laetitia Eido, Primal, The Man in the Basement), who was also in the intelligence business, is killed by an explosion. Six months later he’s unable to get over her death and his son Nick (Chris Petrovski, The Shed, The Body Tree) blames him for his mother’s death and won’t return his calls.

The final straw however comes when the agency calls him in for questioning, trying to frame her as a double agent and freezing him out. He decides to head back to Budapest to look for answers on his own. While John (Alex Pettyfer, The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, The Last Witness), his former assistant and now his replacement, brushes him off, Farrah’s former boss Hitchens (Nina Bergman, Doom: Annihilation, Don’t Try This at Home) points him in the direction of former FSB Chief of Station Evgeny (Nick Moran, Firecracker, Repeater), a man he’s already well acquainted with.

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Since Chief of Station was directed by Jesse V. Johnson (The Debt Collector, One Ranger) I was expecting I was expecting the film to come out with guns blazing and fists flying. But the script from George Mahaffey leans more into the thriller genre than I expected, indeed it’s nearly half an hour before the first punch thrown, which may well be a record for one of his films.

That’s not to say there aren’t some well done action scenes in Chief of Station, because once the film gets around to them there are, most notably, a couple of good fights and a solid car chase. It’s just about all in the last half of the film after Olga Kurylenko (Boudica: Queen of War, The Princess) literally drops in from out of nowhere as one of Farrah’s former assets. Her character certainly fits into the plot, but the way the script handles her could have been a lot better.

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For most of its running time, though, it’s an espionage thriller with a familiar plot line involving conspiracies, double crosses, unlikely allies and imperilled family members. The story works well enough for what it is, even though the villain’s identity is fairly easy to guess, and the ending is distinctly unbelievable. No country is going to willingly hand over a senior intelligence official to INTERPOL or any outside agency, for obvious reasons. The matter would have been taken care of “in house” as it were.

Despite that and Kurylenko’s clumsy Deus ex machina entrance, Chief of Station has a reasonably solid plot and doesn’t push the boundaries of believability the way some of these films do. Johnson keeps things moving at a good pace and the cast, most of whom have plenty of experience with this kind of film, perform well in their roles despite their lack of any real depth or characterization.

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Eckhart especially does well here, following up a similar role in Renny Harlin’s The Bricklayer earlier this year. While not the stardom that was once predicted for him, he seems to be carving out a place for himself in mid-budget/DTV action and thriller films. He looks convincing enough in the fight scenes and has enough talent to handle long stretches of dialogue without looking wooden.

Overall, Chief of Station is an entertaining if unspectacular film that should give fans their money’s worth. Just don’t expect the kind of film Johnson made his name with while he was regularly teaming up with Scott Adkins. He seems to be moving away from that into more mainstream films, how well that will work for him remains to be seen.

Vertical Entertainment has released Chief of Station in theatres as well as to VOD and Digital Platforms

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