Jeffrey (Rupert Graves) is an American advertising honcho ever-willing to stretch the limits to impress clients by filming dangerous but attention-grabbing stunts for TV watchers. It isn’t Jeffrey who risks his neck for the camera, but his director (Sewell) and cameraman (Sawa) who cannot resist the challenge when, in order to hard-sell a brand new digital camera, they venture to the Austrian Alps to capture skiers out-running an avalanche. The team, who include a world champion downhill skier, a wild-child snowboarder and a teenage thrillseeker, find more peril than they imagined when they accidentally film a Serbian war criminal who faked his death in a plane-crash, hiding out at the same disused resort the ad-team are using as their base camp.
Review by Louise Keller:
Spectacular action on the ski-slopes is the backdrop for this adventure thriller about a group of extreme sports fanatics who get caught up in dangerous political intrigue. The script cleverly makes use of this likeable group of thrill-seekers who have more nerve than common sense, by throwing in different elements to make the story entertaining. Sure, it’s a popcorn movie, and the plot is pretty far fetched, but the locations are breathtaking and the stunts impressive. Shot in Vancouver, Berlin, the Rocky Mountains of Canada and in the Austrian and Swiss alps, the dazzling snowy peaks and slopes look as beautiful as any travel documentary, and the skiing action – while mostly done by highly skilled stunt doubles – is stunning. Extreme Ops is about living on the edge, and having a good time. There are avalanches, snowboarding behind speeding trains, hanging upside down from a kayak above a waterfall and some pretty snazzy skiing action. It is probably true to say that we have become a little blasé about such spectacles following films like Vertical Limit. Besides didn’t we see Vin Diesel in xXx racing an avalanche? And 007 showed himself to be pretty nifty on the slopes as well. But to its credit, Extreme Ops is roller-coaster non-stop action and the characters – although limited as to depth - are nicely written. Classy casting brings Rufus Sewell as the progressive creative director, while Rupert Graves is a nice contrast as his conservative business partner, who elicits some of the laughs. Bridgette Wilson-Sampras is vulnerable as the champion downhill racer eager to learn how to have fun, and Jana Pallaske and Joe Absolom are a mischievous pair who add sparkle to many of the scenes. They have a certain energy that is highly contagious; even if their ideas are crazy, they execute them with plenty of zest and enthusiasm. There’s a fun scene when Will, Silo, Kitty and Chloe wind down in a hot tub: little do they know the consequences of the playful fun and games. The film ends as it begins – with kids having fun. And if that’s what the filmmaker intended us to do, he has succeeded. This is an above average adventure film, and while we are always secure in that everything will turn out alright, there are enough thrills and spills to make the journey worthwhile.
Review by Keith Lofthouse
Like most sane people who travel by train, we are content to sit quietly, gazing trance-like at the blur of backyard grunge and graffiti whizzing by. Few ever consider opening a window, let alone risk dangling a limb out of one, or think about those loony teenagers who surf from carriage rooftops, until they become tragic items in the local news. Extreme Ops is an extremely stupid action movie that seems to encourage all kinds of reckless and life-threatening behaviour. It’s not unlike a full-length advertisement for a tobacco company, except that what it’s peddling is a fast death rather than a slow one. And so our team of dim-witted daredevils think it’s cool to turn the most precious parts of nature’s wilderness into their own personal playgrounds, hitching a snow-tow on skis from the rear of speeding trains or skiing from chalet rooftops through plate-glass windows and onto the beer-soaked bars of alpine pubs. Kids, please don’t try any of this at home! No-one deserves the all too possible horror of one day coming face to face with a terrorist, but there’s no sympathy for Jeffrey’s gang when the Serbian crimelord swoops down in his chopper spraying bullets at the hard-working TV people who are only trying to start a harmless avalanche by firing rockets into the snowcaps. To distract us all from the petty personality clashes and an extended scene of drunken revelry round a spa bath there’s a priceless cameo from a gap-toothed Serb who warns his renegade father about the TV people. “I know they are CIA, pop, I can smell it!” And then to underline his evil, he hisses: “Why take chances. Why not just kill them all!” Yes, parts of it are laughable, and so it isn’t a complete waste of time. The scenery is stunning and the camera-work is adventurous, but rapid cutting all too clearly tries to disguise some fakery in the stunt-work, like doubles on the ski-slopes and dummies sliding over the waterfall. Scariest line of the movie comes at the very end when Sewell observes his gang of four riding the rooftops of yet another train. “Here we go again,” he murmurs, flagging a possible sequel. God, we hope not.
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EXTREME OPS (M)
CAST: Devon Sawa, Bridgette Wilson, Rupert Graves, Rufus Sewell, Heino Ferch, Joe Absolom
PRODUCER: Moshe Diamant, Jan Fantl
DIRECTOR: Christian Duguay
SCRIPT: Michael Zaidan (story by Timothy Scott Bogart, Mark Mullin)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Hannes Hubach
EDITOR: Clive Barrett, Sylvain LebelNormand Corbeil, Stanislas Syrewicz
MUSIC: Normand Corbeil, Stanislas Syrewicz
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Philip Harrison
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 31, 2003
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
VIDEO RELEASE: December 18, 2003