Sam Heughan is trading in his broadsword for a machine gun and jumping headfirst into the fray with SAS: Rise of the Black Swan and this rising star is making it clear that he’s ready for some big-time action.
Special Air Service operator, Tom Buckingham (Sam Heughan), takes his girlfriend, Dr. Sophie Hart (Hannah John-Kamen), on a romantic train journey from London to Paris where he intends to propose to her. But an army of mercenaries led by Grace Lewis (Ruby Rose) hijack their train while it is en route in the Channel Tunnel, taking all of the passengers on board hostage at gunpoint. Buckingham escapes from the train and uses his military skills to save the passengers, including his girlfriend, who is now amongst the hostages on board the train.
SAS: Rise of the Black Swan, also known as SAS: Red Notice is an adaptation of celebrated author and former SAS operator Andy McNabb’s noted book series and delivers a heavy punch. Taking audiences into the world of special operations, rogue private contractors, and double-dealing governments, SAS: Rise of the Black Swan is just classic action fun, and with McNabb’s involvement, and storied military past, this film has an authenticity of proper real-world special ops action.
Standing front and centre is Sam Heughan who steps out into the action genre as SAS officer Tom Buckingham, a member of the English gentry who has cut his teeth in the British military with defined focus and who is an utterly lethal trooper when it comes down to it. Buckingham also happens to a ‘high-functioning psychopath’, a trait that gives him very little empathy and a rather sharp focus and the ability to drop any enemy who gets in his way. This doesn’t make Buckingham a monster, but instead a controlled and calculating soldier who will get the job done no matter the cost and this does make things interesting for Heughan as an actor.
While Heughan’s won a legion of the fans the world over with his work in Outlander, the role of Buckingham really gives him new grounds to play with and he takes to the challenge of playing down his empathy with keen interest. The relationship that is played up with his girlfriend Dr. Sophie Hart is interesting to watch, and when the action of the film really starts to pick up, Sam Heughan really gets going as Buckingham and he starts dropping bad guys with lethal precision. Heughan proves with this part that he’s a more than capable action hero and there’s definitely more space for him to explore within this genre going forward.
Facing down Buckingham is Ruby Rose as the psychopathic Grace Lewis, the de-facto leader of a rogue group of private military contractors and she’s a very nasty little piece of work. While she recognises that Buckingham and herself are very similar in concentration and focus, Rose’s Grace Lewis can best be described as ‘a mean girl with a submachine gun’ and she quickly goes on a rampage that makes her goals very, very clear. She’s all attitude and this leads to a very gnarly final confrontation with Buckingham in the third act.
Rising British star Hannah John-Kamen also makes a definite impression on audiences with her turn as Buckingham’s girlfriend Dr. Sophie Hart and she’s no shrinking violet. Left in the midst of the action, she does everything she can to save those innocent people around her and won’t be made a pawn of Grace Lewis in her fight with Buckingham. John-Kamen also has terrific chemistry that she shares with Heughan and together they make for a very gorgeous couple that you’re very happy to see together on screen.
Finally bringing the SAS: Rise of the Black Swan together is the iconic Andy Serkis as SAS commander George Clements, and he’s a real character. As this old-school, hard man of the SAS, Clements has no time for any sort of delay or bullshit and his no filtered, all-business approach within the film is very interesting to watch. As he always is, Serkis is an absolute scene-stealer here as Clements and he’s one of the most enjoyable parts of the film. You never know what he’s going to do next and this leads to some very interesting moments whenever he’s on screen.
We’ve long known that Sam Heughan has been very clear that he’s keen to take on the role of James Bond in the future, and SAS: Rise of the Black Swan proves that he’s got the action man capabilities to handle such a part. His performance here is aggressive and filled with a controlled sense of focus and while ultimately the characters of James Bond and Tom Buckingham are very different in terms of character and tone, we get a great snapshot of what Sam Heughan can bring to the action genre and I’m excited to see what he does next within it.
SAS: Rise of the Black Swan is a film that Sam Heughan fans are going to really enjoy, and with some gnarly action moments and plenty of surprises it’s sure to keep you engaged the whole way through.