Stream It Or Skip It: 'Black Site' on VOD, Where Michelle Monaghan Battles Jason Clarke’s Bloodthirsty Baddie In A Top Secret CIA Facility – Decider

Stream It Or Skip It: 'Black Site' on VOD, Where Michelle Monaghan Battles Jason Clarke’s Bloodthirsty Baddie In A Top Secret CIA Facility – Decider

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Black Site (VOD), the feature film debut of director Sophia Banks, features Michelle Monaghan as a CIA analyst beset by very real trouble when her life behind the numbers is replaced by an escaped detainee running amok through the secret underground facility where she does her work. Jason Clarke actually has very few lines here. But he’s quite effective as a hulking killing machine who may not exactly fit the international terrorist profile Monaghan’s analyst tagged him with. 
The Gist: A hospital is bombed in Turkey, and among the hundreds of casualties are CIA are the doctor husband and young daughter of CIA analyst Abigail “Abby” Trent (Michelle Monaghan). Inside Abby’s grief is a call to action, and she pesters her boss at Langley for a field assignment to “The Citadel,” a hardened surveillance bunker and extraordinary rendition facility secreted away under a hump of rock in the Jordanian desert. There, she digs into the data, questions detainees, and uncovers a connection between the hospital bombing and an infamous and elusive international operator known as “Hatchet” (Jason Clarke). Everybody wants this guy; Uri (Phoenix Raei), an Israeli operative at the Citadel, says the Mossad calls him “The Demon.” But Miller (Jai Courtney), a military contractor at the facility and your basic blunt-edged instrument, scoffs at Hatchet’s bloodsoaked reputation and assures everyone of his status as an equal opportunity tormentor of anyone sent to the black site’s cells.
Miller soon gets his chance to act on that bravado. Abby’s research leads to the capture of Hatchet and his convenient delivery directly to the black site, accompanied by a Delta Force team and CIA translator Tessa (Pallavi Sharda). But incredibly, Abby is thwarted in her efforts to interrogate him, with the Citadel’s station chief Rashid (Fayssal Bazzi) countermanded by Langley. “We built this place to fight terror with terror,” Abby’s boss had told her, but terror takes an awful new form when Hatchet escapes from the interrogation room, kills a few staffers, and disappears into the facility’s warren of hallways and hideaways.
As Hatchet has his run of the black site, dispatching contractors and other facility workers with such makeshift weapons as scalpels, crowbars, and cook pots, Abby desperately initiates a lockdown order, which will send a drone to bomb the Citadel and destroy its data servers. Black Site then becomes downright horror movie adjacent, with Hatchet moving through adversaries like Michael Myers, unhurried and largely unobstructed. (One of his more memorable death blows features a grisly, yet grimly comic oven door takedown in the facility’s canteen/romper room.) Who will survive Hatchet’s onslaught? Can Abby get any decent intel out of this chaos? Or will she be blown to bits by the drone?
What Movies Will It Remind You Of? There are traces of the Bourne universe here, from the typeface of the onscreen titles to the larger implications of an unchecked security state. But thinking more locally, Black Site hews closely to Morbius director Daniel Espinosa’s 2012 action thriller Safe House, which put CIA agent Ryan Reynolds on the run from gunmen alongside a shadowy black ops guy played by Denzel Washington.
Performance Worth Watching: The Black Site script doesn’t give Michelle Monaghan enough to make Abbey truly whole. But the veteran actor elevates the material wherever she can, absolutely owns Jai Courtney’s hardass private contractor in a couple of back-and-forth scenes, and honors John McClain’s lone hero wardrobe well with a white undershirt that becomes more soiled with each fistfight or close quarters escape.
Memorable Dialogue: “That is the world’s most dangerous man and no one knows more about him than I do! I need to be in that room.” Monaghan puts as much gusto as she can into this line, but its technical function is evident to everyone but Abby. It’s designed to highlight the exact moment when she loses control of the facility and unleashes Hatchet.
Sex and Skin: None.
Our Take: You know about black sites, those out-of-the-way, off-the-beaten-path, GPS-elusive locations free of government sanction and the prying eyes of humanitarians that rose to Hollywood prominence in 2012 with Zero Dark Thirty. There, Jessica Chastain was the dogged CIA analyst, not Michelle Monaghan. And Jason Clarke was the cagey interrogator deploying enhanced techniques (i.e. waterboarding), not the interrogated detainee. But Black Site uses the precedent set by Zero Dark as a guidepost, a locator for its world of tenuous national allegiances, invasive intelligence gathering, and the nature of trust as it relates to the trigger of a gun or a drone operator’s joystick. Even before the violence and deceitful revelations of its second half, Black Site establishes a mood of quavering distrust inside its subterranean lair, a facility allegedly designed to further international cooperation. The bullying ex-military contractors belittle the data-driven CIA analysts. The American staffers keep their counterparts from supposed partner countries like Great Britain and Israel at arm’s length. And when an outside tactical team shows up with its own set of orders, trust isn’t worth an email sent or round expended. Welcome to the 21st century, where the only known knowns are within you.
“I’m their problem now,” Monaghan’s determined analyst says late in Black Site. Once driven to avenge the deaths of her family in a terrorist bombing, the events of the film expand her field of vision, to the point that a sequel featuring Abby as some kind of Hatchet-like asymmetrical operator would be entirely plausible. “I remember everything!” Jason Bourne once hollered at his former CIA minders as a means of warning. In Abby’s case, the black site attack becomes her moment of best education.
Will you stream or skip the survival thriller #BlackSite on VOD? #SIOSI
— Decider (@decider) May 3, 2022

Our Call: STREAM IT. Driven by a strong lead performance from Michelle Monaghan, Black Site features some bloody action movie thrills as its titular subterranean facility is torn apart by Jason Clarke’s one man terrorist army.
Johnny Loftus is an independent writer and editor living at large in Chicagoland. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Pitchfork Media, and Nicki Swift. Follow him on Twitter: @glennganges
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