It starts off on a quiet, lazy note but by the time the film has reached its halfway mark, you realize Target Number One is trying to be gritty, slow burn fare, based on a shocking true story.
Daniel Roby’s Canadian crime drama draws inspiration from the real-life story of Alain Olivier, a drug addict in Quebec who ended up in a Thailand jail for years after a sad twist of events. Alain had become a pawn in a top secret operation of the Canadian law enforcers that went wrong.
Olivier is reimagined here as Daniel Leger, played by Antoine Olivier Pilon. Leger’s arrest becomes the focus of an obsessive probe by Victor Malarek (Josh Hartnett), an investigative journalist who wants to crack the case of the drug addict.
Maintaining a parallel narrative structure, the story unfolds through two sub plots. The first is about Leger, who gets involved in a drug sting of the Canadian police in Thailand. The sting operation bombs and Leger lands in a Thai jail.
The other storyline follows Malarek, high-profile television journalist who ends up probing the Leger case only to become obsessed about it.
Roby sets out to balance the contrasting characters of the two sub plots — Leger’s life in the Thai prison bears struggles that are vastly different from Malarek’s as he goes about trying to crack the case. The parallel narratives are woven seamlessly, but in doing so Roby does not give due focus on Leger. Somewhere, the pace of the film falter too, simply failing to pick up.
There is an element of pathos about Leger’s life despite his criminality, and writer-director Roby brings it alive on screen without resorting to melodrama. Roby’s credibility lies in making his characters humane. Malarek, for instance, may be top star in his field of work, but his frenzied and undivided attention towards work creates room for discord at the home front. His marriage lurches on the brink of failure.
Yet, you get a feeling Roby wasted too much time training his camera on Malarek’s family woes. The track only serves to act as distraction from what should have been the film’s focal point — a story of the Canadian man who was forsaken by his own government to cover up an elaborate gaffe.
The setting of the story line is the nineties and Ronald Plante’s cinematography is suitably rendered in a way that it imparts a feel of the era and also gives the narrative an impact of realism, without getting too loud about it. Hartnett and Pilon topline a cast that exudes their roles effectively, in a film that harks back to the way thrillers used to be made once upon a time.
Target Number One is slightly off target owing to inadequate storytelling treatment.
Target Number One (Canadian film on Zee plex); Cast: Antoine Olivier Pilon, Josh Hartnett, Jim Gaffigan, Stephen McHattie, Don McKellar, JC MacKenzie, Amanda Crew; Direction: Daniel Roby
–ians, VINAYAK CHAKRAVORTY