Entrapment (1999)

The Long Connery

Despite its use of the impending millennium as a plot point, Entrapment’s filmmaking sensibility feels much older.  The foundations on which it is built – the chemistry of its stars, the emphasis on glamor, its escapist sense of adventure – all feel sadly old-fashioned in the current filmmaking landscape.  Though it certainly brings specific movies to mind, Mission: Impossible and the Pierce Brosnan James Bond entries among them, what Entrapment really echoes is more ineffable: an old-Hollywood mood of light entertainment.

When a Rembrandt painting is stolen from the penthouse of a wealthy collector, insurance investigator Virginia “Gin” Baker (Catherine Zeta-Jones) suspects Robert “Mac” MacDougal (Sean Connery), an aging professional thief.  After selling her boss (Will Patton) on her theory, Gin follows Mac to London, where he quickly makes her as his tail and holds her at gunpoint.  Claiming to be a thief herself, Gin makes Mac an offer: partnering with her on the daring heist of a priceless Chinese mask and splitting the take. 

Entrapment is undeniably slick, which might be the most important quality in a heist thriller.  It’s lovely to look at, thanks to its lavish slideshow of international locations, and it generally moves as smoothly and efficiently as its two leads.  The lead-up and execution of the heist sequences deliver, in particular an equal parts tense and sexy scene in which Zeta-Jones slinks her way through an invisible laser grid.

Though Entrapment is billed as heist movie, it’s just as much a star vehicle, and lives or dies on the charisma of its two leads; this is the one area where the movie excels.  Even in its flimsier moments, Zeta-Jones and Connery effortlessly carry the movie, with Connery giving a world-wearier brand of his James Bond charm and Zeta-Jones, here at her most impossibly beautiful, sparkling whenever she’s on screen.  The two aren’t playing original characters, they’re playing Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones; luckily, both are very well-cast.  Mac and Gin’s relationship is the heart of the movie, a playful and dangerous game of cat-and-mouse where the roles are constantly shifting.  Their ambiguous loyalties give the movie its spice, though the script indulges in a few too many role reversals.

Entrapment strains and eventually abandons credibility, but remains breezily entertaining enough that one doesn’t notice such things until the credits roll.  It sags a bit in its second half; shifting gears to a high-tech bank heist which, while enjoyable, threatens to collapse under the weight of its own action-movie spectacle.  Thankfully, things end on a low-key note that feels far truer to the real essence of the movie.  Entrapment peaks early, and its twists walk the line between clever and nonsensical, but it’s silly, sexy fun that knows how to make the most of its two stars’ considerable talents.


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