Back to IndieWire

Review: Henry Cavill Vehicle ‘The Cold Light Of Day’ Should Have Stayed In Deep Freeze

Review: Henry Cavill Vehicle 'The Cold Light Of Day' Should Have Stayed In Deep Freeze

Sneaking into theaters with little to no fanfare at the tail end of summer, “The Cold Light of Day,” a dramatically inert and visually muddy thriller from Mabrouk El Mechri (“JCVD“), is so bad that its mere presence in theaters feels like the behind-the-scenes machinations of some kind of contractual obligation instead of actual enthusiasm on anyone’s part. It’s telling that the movie was released in the United Kingdom back in April (it was rightly savaged) and is only finally coming out here. And if we were some high ranking executive at Warner Bros., we would be genuinely concerned about the on-screen presence of Henry Cavill, who leads “The Cold Light of Day” and has been cast by the studio as the lead in next summer’s Superman extravaganza “Man of Steel.” The dude doesn’t just lack charisma, he seems to vacuum it from other actors too.

Even recounting the plot of “The Cold Light of Day” seems like an effort in futility, but here goes anyway: dull, handsome dude Will Shaw (Cavill) visits Spain, where his father (Bruce Willis, looking like he lost a bet) works as some kind of cultural attaché to the local government. The newly reunited family (including his mom, played by Caroline Goodall; brother, played by Rafi Gavron; and his brother’s girlfriend played by Emma Hamilton) are off on an adventure on the family’s sailboat. And this adventure seems to go on forever. Seriously, it feels like the first half of the movie is “Moby Dick” or something. One day Will, preoccupied with his failing small business, goes into town for supplies and comes back to find the boat gone. He eventually locates it and finds that everyone on the boat are gone too… It’s all terribly mysterious, made even more mysterious by the fact that the police seemingly want to kill his blandly handsome ass.

Will is rescued by his gruff, bored-looking father, and the rest of the movie stumbles along as a barely comprehensible (but mostly incomprehensible) chase movie, where Will tries to retrieve his family, fight off various assassins, locate a non-descript briefcase, and look tough while being severely stared down by Sigourney Weaver. It’s a jumbled mess of a movie, and one that feels like it goes on forever, despite running a cool 93 minutes. Sometimes it feels like some cracked young adult novel.

Mostly, it plays out like a series of incredibly dumb decisions – everything from the visuals, which emphasize overlong takes for no narrative or stylistic reason (there are no less than three shots which come out of or go into a mirror), to the fact that one of Will’s allies is a comely young lass named Lucia (played like a Spanish version of Natalie Portman by Veronica Echegui) who is revealed (spoiler alert, as if you give a shit) to be Will’s sister. Not only does this totally kill any and all romantic tension between the two (and thus leaves us with very little to hang our hat on as an audience) but it also introduces a huge plot thread that is barely addressed. It’s so frustrating.

What makes it even more frustrating is when you see that, somehow, Richard Price, the amazing novelist and screenwriter behind “Lush Life,” Ron Howard‘s “Ransom,” and “The Color of Money,” was at least partially responsible for the script. (As we were watching we were trying to decide which stuff was his, and assumed that the moment when Sigourney Weaver starts shooting random pedestrians was probably his invention. It’s safe to assume he was just as bored writing it as an audience will be watching it.)

Another huge issue is Cavill, who, when the movie opens, is an arrogant and absentminded dickhead. He keeps checking his Blackberry until Willis throws it into the ocean and at one point is almost responsible for his brother’s girlfriend being grievously injured. So you kind of hate him off the bat. But when he’s supposed to assume the action movie role, taking on an oversized responsibility and realizing how important family is (or something), he totally fails in that too. Yes, he looks really great – his face has angles that geometrics probably can’t explain – but he lacks any weight or presence. He’s a collection of handsome features in search of a movie star. And he comes across as just as whiny in the second half of the movie as he did in the first, which is not a good thing at all. While we saw the actor in Tarsem‘s “Immortals,” we were too busy being dazzled by that film’s lavish visuals to be bothered with things like actors. Genuinely, we have no idea how he’s going to pull off being the Man of Steel.

Towards the end of the movie, after all the shoot-outs and horribly shot car chases, Cavill asks another character what was in the suitcase that everyone was scrambling over. The other character gives some opaque answer, but the fact that we can’t even remember (or bother ourselves to care), says a whole lot. The characters in “The Cold Light of Day” are constantly searching for something that they can never really put their finger on, and audiences going to see the movie will feel a very similar sensation. [D-]

This Article is related to: Reviews and tagged , , ,


Daniel C

I think Cavill's a solid actor. People possibly even expect more from his acting than they would someone less good looking in order to justify his prominence is down to talent over looks and that's not really fair. These directors and producers wouldn't cast him on looks alone, you can be sure of that,


Unfortunately anyone who suggests Cavill is a bad actor will be accused of being 'jealous' (the word they are really looking for is envious, but that's a whole different argument about grammar) of his looks. I'm sorry but while many people will like to see him on screen because he is undoubtedley very handsome, it shouldn't make him immune from criticism against his art.
To quantify:
Bradd Pitt is a good actor.
George Clooney is a very good actor.
Johnny Depp is as good an actor as there is.
Henry Cavill? Let's leave it there.


I saw the movie today. It's a popcorn movie and you can't expect big things from popcorn movies, you just sit on your couch and watch. Obviously the script needed more development, the only one saving the movie was Henry Cavill, he was great and believable in all the movie. He did a great job, he did his part, but if the script or the direction suck are not Henry's fault or of any other actor!!! Do your homework as journalist better!!!


I think the script could have been developed more, definitely. I was hoping that the spanish chick was going to be a love interest as well. But I think Henry did the best he could do with the part. I am not a blind fan cavill either, as I think his american accent was lacking, and sometimes he would say things that didn't hide the fact he is British. But over all, I liked it. I wanted more information, about the Dad's other life, about the briefcase, about Will's "business", about why he and his father didn't get along, I got more info on that when henry did an interview about the movie. The movie ends abruptly as well. I wanted more an explaination, see what happens. They did leave it open for his character to make another one though, and if they did I would go see it.


Yeah, right….. blame it all on Cavill…(and before you say i am just another "blind fan" of his i tell you that i did not like his acting in this one either but the whole movie sucked!) Like if the movie/script was a blilliant masterpiece and that horrible actor ruined it for us. You keep mentioning his good looks and you are biased by the stereotype 'handsome but not talent" like if Brad Pitt never starred in horrible movies and never gave crappy performances in his life before making it to the Oscars nominations. As for man of steel, until i see it i can not express an opinion and i find the reactions of people that are bashing him without even seeing it at least childish.


The inability and the jealousy of the journalist is limitless!!


Finally! Welcome to the people-realizing-Henry-Cavill-is-a-terrible-actor Club! It's been strange the way you've been acting like because he didn't get cast as James Bond, he was this secretly amazing actor. He was AWFUL in "The Tudors"…it's pretty evident the guy is a handsome blank.


Seriously, is the Superman role cursed?! Hopefully the script of Man of Steel will showcase a better performance.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *