“Blacklight” is yet another attempt to utilize or rather exploit Liam Neeson’s reputation as a special agent in Hollywood. The movie doesn’t fall under any specific genre and instead tries to find an adjustment between action and mystery. There is no mystery here, as we already know who is pulling the strings. And as for action, it’s just approximately 5 minutes of mostly blind and missed gunshots.
Major Spoilers Ahead
‘Blacklight’ Plot Summary
Sophia Flores, an innocent civilian spearheading a social movement, is killed by two men, and her death is made to appear as a hit and run. Mira Jones, a reporter, has been researching her death for over a year because she thinks Sophia was killed, but she doesn’t have proof.
Meanwhile, special agent Dusty Crane is put behind bars for hitting a police officer. Travis Block is sent to bring him back to base. While returning in Travis’ car, Dusty reveals that he was going to meet a reporter. He also warns Travis of the FBI’s wrongdoings. Travis halts at his granddaughter Natalie’s school to meet her, and Dusty manages to unlock his handcuffs and escapes. While making his escape, with Travis following him, Dusty exchanges a few words with Mira Jones. Travis reports Dusty’s escape to his friend, FBI Director Gabriel Robinson, who hired him long back to assist agents in need. On the other hand, Mira still isn’t able to convince her boss, Drew Hawthorne, to print her article on Sophia Flores.
Travis tries to find out more about Dusty but is unable to. His relationship with his daughter Amanda is strained as she is worried that his father’s paranoid self and round-the-clock “dirty work” will affect Natalie. Meanwhile, unknown to Travis, Robinson sends two people to kill Dusty, the same two who killed Sophia. Dusty somehow escapes yet again.
Travis, who had noticed Mira during Dusty’s first escape, realizes that she was the same reporter that Dusty mentioned to him. He tracks her down and asks her to let him know the next time Dusty contacts her.
The next day, Travis follows Mira to a car museum, where he finds her and Dusty talking. Dusty spots Travis and tries to escape, but stops only to tell him how the FBI has been killing innocent civilians under Robinson’s orders. And that he was the one the FBI was using as a weapon. Dusty wants to reveal the truth to the world, and is about to make his run when he is shot to death by Robinson’s two agents. Travis realizes that something is seriously wrong and meets up with Mira. Here, he reveals how Robinson and he served in Vietnam as young soldiers. Later on, it was Robinson who gave him his present job of bringing out FBI agents from compromised situations. In return, Mira tells him that Dusty mentioned something about Operation Unity. Travis confronts Robinson about Operation Unity, and confirms his doubts about the operation’s killing of innocent civilians (we are not told for what reason). When Robinson declines, Travis walks out of the job, against Robinson’s wishes. Immediately after, Travis is unable to contact his daughter in any way, and suspects Robinson’s involvement.
Mira’s boss, Drew, publishes her article under his name without telling her. As expected, the FBI kills him too. Mira makes up her mind to hold the FBI responsible for the killings and Operation Unity. She contacts Travis and convinces him to find out more about Operation Unity from Robinson’s very house. Travis visits Robinson and manages to get a hard drive that has all the data about Operation Unity. But before he could leave, he is apprehended by Robinson’s same two agents, whom he this time shoots and kills. However, he too gets wounded, and Robinson manages to escape.
The hard drive reveals that Dusty was assigned to kill Sophia, but he fell in love with her and Robinson came to know of it. Fearing that Dusty might tell Sophia everything and she, who had her sources and influence, might reveal everything to the world, Robinson got her killed and then Dusty. With a gun to his forehead, Travis carjacks Robinson and compels him to reveal the truth about the FBI and Operation Unity, as well as where he has Travis’ daughter and granddaughter. In the end, Robinson is arrested while Travis unites with his family.
The trail that “Blacklight” leaves for us to follow is bleak. More information about many elements of the film would certainly have contributed to the plot and made for a harder impact. Throughout the film, there are questions that linger in the mind that remain unanswered.
What is Operation Unity?
Operation Unity, which the FBI was carrying out under Robinson’s orders, is basically to execute innocent civilians. But why? And to what outcome? We have absolutely no idea. But there has to be a strong reason to kill innocent civilians. Is it on the White House’s orders to silence those who speak against the government? Or are these innocent civilians connected in some way? There are many questions that “Blacklight” leaves unanswered. For a movie that thrives on secrets, not revealing the one that the movie hinges on is certainly a fault.
What Happened In Vietnam?
April 1975. This was when Travis served in Vietnam alongside Robinson, he reveals to Mira. He tells her how he mistakenly shot his commanding officer on a mission while posted there. It was Robinson who pulled him out of the situation, one that shook him to the core. He probably left the army after that incident. It was 15 years later (1990) that Robinson, who was in the FBI by then, got back to Travis and wanted him to work for the FBI unofficially. We are not given any information about those 15 years during which he probably developed his obsessive-compulsive disorder (as pointed out by Mira). Keeping in mind that he wasn’t even 20 during Vietnam, in 1990 he would have been 35 years old at max. He probably got married and had a daughter, i.e. Amanda. However, the way Amanda speaks to her father demonstrates that his “episodes” began when Amanda was a child (she mentions this).
Maybe, this paranoia was also the reason why her mother (Travis’s wife) left them. It may also be that Amanda has some of her father’s paranoia which she does not want to give in to and thus lives separately with her daughter. At this point, we are also made to wonder what led to Amanda’s divorce. Was it the paranoia all over again?
What Was Travis’s OCD?
We, as an audience, need to connect with Travis to understand his OCD, something that “Blacklight” overlooks. While we do know that he has been an agent for more than 20 years, it does not establish his OCD. Travis tells Mira that doing things thrice helps him suppress the thoughts in his mind from repeating themselves. He mentions how sometimes his OCD makes him better at what he does, i.e., ensure everything is safe and secure, including his daughter’s house. However, at other times, he feels like he should be locked away. This also makes sense since this very behavior is what has distanced him from his daughter and granddaughter.
Taken for granted that it is not unusual for an agent to be this way, a little more proof of his OCD would have established the ironic arc of Travis’s character, one that is concerned about his family’s safety as well as his relationship with them. The reason we say “ironic” is that it is his overarching concern for their safety that in turn has led them to stay away from him, if not push him away. Yet, we are to make-do with what we have: a paranoid agent with OCD.
Robinson is One Unusual FBI Director
For someone who is the director of the FBI, some of Robinson’s actions and inactions are striking. The first thing that may have struck many minds is that Robinson would easily have used Travis’ past as leverage against him when he walked out of his job. After all, Travis did kill their commanding officer, someone whom the world probably thinks to be KIA (thanks to Robinson). But Robinson doesn’t do it. He lets bygones be bygones. Is this his goodwill? Or is it something the creators missed? Or it could also be that they didn’t know how to go about in that direction, so they let it slip because if Robinson had used Travis’ past as leverage, “Blacklight” would have been an hour longer.
There is another thing that doesn’t seem logical. Towards the end of “Blacklight,” Travis carjacks Robinson. First of all, does the director of the FBI travel all by himself? It is a fact that the director of the FBI has his own staff of security personnel, drivers, and aides. But here we see none of them. Rather, it is Travis who is driving the car, although we forgive this mistake as he is a close associate of Robinson’s. But what follows is him and Travis pulling guns at each other in the middle of a street. This is something that could have been avoided, as Travis could have taken him to his home or a hidden place (considering he is a secret agent, there is always an interrogation chamber, right?). It just doesn’t go well with the kind of position Robinson holds along with his experience. Here again, when Travis puts a gun to his forehead and compels him to reveal the truth to the world, Robinson could have just reminded him of his past. However, he does not and succumbs to Travis’s demands.
‘Blacklight’ Ending Explainer: Is Travis Block Safe?
The last scene of “Blacklight” shows Travis getting his family back and Robinson being arrested for his crimes. Keeping in mind that he is the director of the FBI, it is not unusual to think that he must have people outside working for him with whom he can get the word out about Travis Block and his family.
For people like Travis, there’s a long list of enemies. He had already mentioned to Mira that he had his name on all sorts of things like breaking and entering, extortion, occasional physical coercion, anything but murder. So while Travis’ paranoia does pose an issue for Amanda and her daughter, it is necessary.
“Blacklight” is a 2022 action-mystery film directed by Mark Williams.