The Cold Light of Day is puzzling. The involvement of the venerated talents of Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver suggests the possibility of some quality. But it turns out that the movie is awful, and that those two veterans seem to have known it as well. They sleep through the film’s ridiculous plot twists, barely showing up to deliver their stilted dialogue. They cannot muster up any enthusiasm for the picture, and it’s easy to see why. And when the actors aren’t into it, it’s likely that audiences wouldn’t be into it either. The Cold Light of Day is a terrible movie, and it has no right being projected in theaters.
Will (Henry Cavill) arrives in Spain for a vacation with his family. He’s a little reluctant to take this vacation, because he has a contentious relationship with his father Martin (Bruce Willis), and he’s worried about his company back home. While out sailing, his attentions are diverted from his tasks on the boat, leading to an accident. Angry, Martin throws Will’s phone overboard. Will goes into town to cool his head. When he returns to the boat, he finds his family gone. Soon he discovers that his father is actually a CIA agent, and that his family was taken by a group seeking a mysterious briefcase. When his father is killed, Will is left to run around Madrid, finding answers from anyone willing to give it.
This is the story of a civilian outsmarting what appear to be the world’s dumbest spies. The very premise of the movie is faulty, driven entirely by one of the dumbest decisions a spy has ever made in the history of cinema. There should be no reason for that briefcase to be so important. But apparently, one of the world’s most elite covert agencies is in the business of giving away their sensitive information for no good reason. The film seems to have been written on the fly, making for a series of scenes that can’t stand up to even the slightest of scrutiny.
All movies ask for some suspension of disbelief, and spy thrillers often ask for an extra two or three levels. But this movie takes things way too far, with the spies all looking like complete idiots. For example, after a grueling car chase, the hero catches up with the villain. After all that trouble, the hero gets into a car and drives away. The villain, who has up to this point been trying to escape from the hero, inexplicably goes after him, even though the hero offers nothing of value. And all this action is shot in terrible faux-Bourne handheld that’s cut terribly, obscuring much of what’s actually going on.
This is one of those cases when the actors seem to know that the movie they’re in is terrible, and they adjust accordingly. Through all of it, Henry Cavill is never convincing as a supposed businessman, or as a guy overly concerned with trying to find his family. Cavill has been charismatic in other roles, but none of that comes through in this one. Veterans Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver show their disdain for the picture and completely sleepwalk through their roles. Weaver is particularly terrible, the actress simply unwilling to give anything to the picture. Again, the material isn’t strong, but the actors could have at least tried to give audiences something to hold on to.
The Cold Light of Day ends with (unnecessary spoiler alert) Will being offered a job in the agency. Colm Meaney suddenly shows up as an agency higher up, and tells Will that he did a good job of cleaning up their mess, and that he should consider joining up. In any other circumstance, this would be unbelievable, but the film set up such a ridiculous world of terrible spy games that it seems reasonable that a civilian with zero training might have a place in the CIA. The movie is so bad what it does that the normal rules of the world simply cannot apply.