‘American Ultra’ a new spin on the old spy thriller

Joanna Harlow


“American Ultra”, the new Max Landis and Nima Nourizadah film, stars Jessie Eisenberg as a small-town stoner, Mike,who’s life revolves around his girlfriend, Phoebe (Kristen Stewart). The movie plays as a sort of provincial “Bourne Identity”. The flavor of the American South is infused into the West Virginia setting where the two live in a flawed dream-home making just enough in dead-end jobs. Mike is not just metaphorically stuck in a small town; he has a panic attack when he tries to get on the plane to Hawaii, where he plans to propose to Phoebe.

Mike is blissfully unaware that he is in fact, a brain-washed, CIA super-soldier, programmed to be switched on at the will of the American government. The action begins when  CIA agent, Victoria Lasseter, played by Connie Britton, goes rogue, and in an attempt to save her super-creation from the tyranny of the CIA, activates Mike’s powers.

Mike and Phoebe must face a fairly obvious list of obstacles, including the expected grocery store shoot out and an awkwardly diplomatic Topher Grace who plays an ambitious CIA agent, Adrian Yates, hell-bent on killing Mike to secure his spot at the agency. There is also a battalion of disturbed former inmates, who were driven mad by the experiment that made them into CIA killing machines, who function as Yates’ goons.

The movie’s aesthetic teeters between “True Blood” and “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” and it’s best quality is the believable and heartfelt romance between Eisenberg and Stewart. With surprisingly emotional moments with the enemy characters, and an ending which asks the audience to determine the moral landscape, the movie lacks a real message, even one as simple as “good-guy, bad-guy.” Although it fails to give the viewer a cohesive worldview, the idea of a lasting, flawed romance provides enough solid ground for an enjoyable date movie.


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