Tarik Saleh’s “The Contractor” is an action thriller that builds up good expectations but ultimately falls into the trap of usualness that so many films in the genre fall prey to. It stars Chris Pine as James Harper, an ex-Special Forces operative, and Ben Foster as his close friend, Mike. Although “The Contractor” begins on a pleasant tone, different from what is usually expected from films as such, soon the plot gets into the usual predictable turns and, by the end, becomes a forgettable watch.
‘The Contractor’ Plot Summary
James Harper is a dedicated Sergeant in the Special Forces of the US Army, trying his best to recover from a terrible knee injury. He wants to provide a good life to his wife, Brianne, and young son, Jack. He uses some mild but prohibited drugs to help his body recover from the injury, knowing that the service hardly ever checks up on such things. But with the arrival of a new commanding officer, all such tests are conducted, and James is called up to answer for his actions. He explains that he was only trying to get back on the field faster, but his reasons are not accepted, and he is discharged from the army, although with honor, but without any benefits or pension.
Shocked at such a turn of events, James now contemplates what to do next, especially with large pending bills stocking up in his name. Brianne wants to give him all the support and love he needs, but she is scared of the mental toil that he must be going through. A friend of his has only recently committed suicide after being released from the army. At this funeral, James catches up with his longtime friend, Mike, who also is an ex-army personnel. Mike suggests that James can work for a private militia as a contractor, offers of which James has already started receiving.
When he shows some interest, Mike tells him about the man he currently works for named Rusty Jennings, a trustable ex-army man who now runs a militia for operations regarding national security. James agrees to meet the man, and the two drive down to Rusty’s ranch the next day. The man tells James about his works, which have nothing to do with safeguarding billionaires or celebrities, but are instead hard, clean missions related to the country’s security. He also tells James how his wife and son would be provided for when he would be gone on the upcoming mission to Germany, and the latter agrees to take up the job.
Brianne is distressed after first hearing about her husband’s new profession as it does not have the protection and safety of a job directly in the army, but they are quite helpless in their situation as well. A few days later, James flies off to Berlin on a reconnaissance mission on which Mike will also accompany him.
Major Spoilers Ahead
How Does The Mission Go So Terribly Wrong?
James is briefed in his hotel room about the target he will be following: Salim Mohsin, a professor of virology at a university in Berlin. The part-time lecturer and full-time researcher is suspected to nurture intentions of bioterrorism with a new vaccine that he is working on. He claims that it cures H1N1 very effectively. James sets up an operation close to the professor’s house, spying on his movements as he spends time with his family. He gathers all the information he can about them and the house, and then follows Salim to his private research center.
The professor seems to be involved in some misdeed, as he warns someone over the phone about a suspected spy in his own laboratory and also receives shipments of live pigs for experimentation. The man, who is of Syrian origin, also has a history of being funded in his research by a charity that has direct links with Al-Qaeda in Syria.
After James’s reconnaissance has ended, he meets up with the rest of the team, which is headed by Mike. Mike lays out the next plan of action: the team will go visit the laboratory, disarm whatever security it has, and break in to interrogate the target, then wait for further instructions from above. Dressed in professional gear, the team, consisting of three mercenaries, rolls out at night to the laboratory situated on the fringe of the city, and is able to take the sole guard hostage and use his biometrics to enter the building. They soon track down Salim, who is alone in the entire premises, and start their planned tactical interrogation. The professor denies any wrongdoing and instead tries to plead and convince the mercenaries to spare him for the sake of science and humanity.
Midway through their conversation, Mike receives a warning from headquarters that the Berlin police have been warned and are on their way to the location. The team has to now secure Salim’s laptop, containing confidential data, kill him off, and burn the entire place down, making it look like an accident. The plan is followed, and they leave the site quickly to be extracted by a van, but things start to go downhill when police cars arrive on the road blocking their exit. The three mercenaries and also the agent in the car start to shoot the police, and a gunfight follows in which both the driver and the third mercenary die.
James and Mike have to survive a swarm of more police officers joining the chase, but it looks incredibly difficult as Mike has been shot in the leg. They somehow manage to escape into a safe space, and James donates blood to Mike for his survival. They then decided on a plan in which Mike would go towards Berlin with the secured laptop and wait for James there, who would rest up and leave the next day.
However, upon reaching Berlin, he finds the hotel room empty with no sign of Mike, and only instructions related to his own extraction. After a few days of waiting, he calls Rusty, informing him of his situation and also asking about Mike. Rusty says that Mike did not show up with any of the intel, but assures James that he will be immediately extracted. As the mercenary goes to the meeting spot with a growing sense of doubt, a group arrives and tries to shoot him dead. James manages to survive the attack and interrogates one of the men. The man, who is an ex-marine himself, reveals that Rusty had sent them to finish him off, and that there really was no escape as James would have to remain hidden in Germany.
James: The Mercenary With A Heart And Conscience
From the very beginning, “The Contractor” draws James’s character as one with more compassion and a “soft-side” than the mercenaries in such action thriller films usually possess. His affection is centered on his family, and also towards any family all over the world, be it his friend’s or his enemy’s. He looks uncomfortable when gathering intel on Salim’s family, and also before killing him, when he begs mercy for his wife and kids. A similar feeling grips him when talking to the ex-marine who had come to kill him.
“The Contractor” also makes us aware of James’s reason for being of such nature—for he is haunted by the memories of his father, who was too harsh on him during his childhood. The father made the young child get a tattoo of the American flag on his arm to match it with his own tattoo. He would take the boy hunting with him, but not let him explore and learn on his own. And then, when he was removed from the army, the man simply left his family alone, abandoning them, and never returned. This had obviously impacted the young boy horribly, and now as a grown adult, James does not want the same for either his son, or the children of others.
Driven mostly by this intention, and also by a sense of growing guilt, he goes back to Salim’s family to gather more information about the scientist. He learns that the man was actually intending to make a vaccine against a virus that the US (and possibly some other countries) wanted to release as indirect bio-warfare. Salim was also planning to make the treatment as cost-effective as possible, to make it freely accessible to common populations. With teary eyes, James realizes that they were intentionally given misinformation and made to act as mere puppet mercenaries for political foul-play.
He leaves the family unharmed, knowing that it might prove to be dangerous for him later, and dials up a number that the ex-marine had given him. It is of an unnamed man who helps out mercenaries who are being hunted by an American private militia. James is assisted by this man as he treats him back to health in his own house and looks after his needs. But soon, the militia reaches here too, and kills the man, with James somehow managing to escape. Determined to return home, he carefully flies back to his hometown, and, even before meeting his own family, decides to visit Mike’s. His friend had requested him to directly go tell his wife of his passing, and James went to do the same. However, he sees that Mike is quite alive and healthy, spending time with his family.
‘The Contractor’ Ending Explained: Is James Able To Take Revenge?
James follows his friend the next day, intending to get answers from him. In a vacant parking lot, he attacks Mike, who is shocked by his appearance as Rusty had told him that James had died. Mike tells James that it is extremely risky for him to stay in the town, as Rusty is sure to attack and kill him and his family. But James is not willing to give up, and so, taking Mike on his side, he visits Rusty’s ranch for one final time. The two friends tear the place down, killing everyone but Rusty, who manages to kill Mike. Rusty himself has been wounded by a bullet, and James finishes him off. He tries to help Mike survive, but realizing that his efforts are in vain, he sets the car ablaze with Mike’s body in it, making it look like an unrelated road accident. He then goes back to his house, where he sees Brianne and Jack coping quite happily with life. He calls out to James, and the film cuts to black as the boy looks back.
Although the last scene makes it evident that James returns to his family, the voice in which he calls out to his son does not seem like his, with more depth and weight to it. This voice instead matches most with James’ father, who never returned, and this sums up the arc of James’ character. It was never an option for him to not return, for he knows how it feels to be a boy constantly hoping for his father’s return. His childhood had been spent waiting for the voice of his father to call him back, and now he makes sure that he is there for his son.
“The Contractor” is a 2022 Drama Action film directed by Tarik Saleh.