Spider in the Web, directed by Eran Riklis, is a new spy thriller that is banking on the popularity of its stars to make people want to see it. Somehow managing to be generic and predictable despite being overly convoluted, this film is nonetheless watchable because of an enjoyable turn from Sir Ben Kingsley.
The movie has two main stories: one involving an aging Israeli agent who is investigating a potential chemical weapons deal involving a Middle Eastern dictatorship, and a younger operative who is sent to investigate him under the suspicion that he may be fabricating evidence. Although this sounds like an interesting concept on paper, it is ultimately developed in a way that is less than satisfying.
One of the biggest issues with this film is that the pacing is quite uneven. The runtime clocks in at slightly under two hours which, while not unusual for the genre, is simply too long for this story. Had some of the fluff and red herrings been trimmed, this could have been an admirably twisty spy drama, but as is, it feels bloated and forgettable.
Another thing that hurts the movie is the doubt that the film plants in the beginning of the movie regarding the legitimacy of its storyline. In the beginning of the film, it is established that Adereth (Kingsley), may be beyond his prime and acting irrationally. Although the movie tries its hardest on many occasions to prove to us that this was, in fact, an error, that inkling of doubt that rests in our mind prevents us from completely buying into the story.
Additionally, the character development is quite weak. Perhaps it is because they are supposed to be formless shadows, but neither Adereth nor Daniel has a particularly compelling personality, and as such, it becomes difficult to sympathize with either of them. That said, the dynamic that forms between the two is likely the most interesting part of the film. If only this was explored in more depth.
Kingsley gives an enjoyable performance as Adereth, but one can’t help but wonder where his days of getting Oscar-worthy roles have gone. Kingsley has a great range, so he is able to elevate anything in which he stars, including this, though you can tell he was likely still in it for the paycheck. The rest of the cast is largely unimpressive, as Itzik Cohen is mostly flat and emotionless, and Monica Bellucci is sadly underused.
On a technical level, the movie is even more generic than the script. The film lacks any sense of style or visual flair, feeling entirely uninspired. Had the movie looked more exciting, it would have been more exciting as a whole in turn. Instead, the visuals are thoroughly bland and only serve to compound the overly slow pace of the script.
Spider in the Web is kept afloat simply by the presence of Sir Ben Kingsley, but otherwise, it is a generic and bland spy film. Although it may be distraction enough to please some audiences, most will be left thinking of the better movies which this hoped to replicate.
Spider in the Web hits theaters and VOD on August 30.