SAS: The Rise of the Black Swan, the review: a failed family and psychological action thriller

The review of SAS: The Rise of the Black Swan, the Netflix action thriller on the platform from August 30th that would like to get out of the canons of the genre but cannot.

In the ever-growing catalog of Netflix original action films that seem to be made with an algorithm, a product arrives on August 30 that would like to be different but can’t completely do it, as we will explain in this one. SAS review: The Rise of the Black Swan. Filmed in Budapest before the pandemic, the British thriller in the UK was released on Sky Cinema, being a co-producer. A curious choice that can be seen precisely in the premises of the story, which however are disregarded to the viewer, and in the visual rendering.


SAS – The Rise of the Black Swan: Sam Heughan in a scene

SAS: Red Notice (this is the original title of the film) as the novel of the same name by Andy McNabb from which it is based, tells of the so-called “black swans” or those rare psychopaths who, although usually cannot feel emotions for anyone, they fall in love because they are “understood”.
SAS stands for Special Air Service, the British military special force which includes Tom Buckingham (Sam Heughan, best known for the role of Jamie in Outlander), who after a particularly difficult mission decides to bring his girlfriend Sophie (Hannah John- Kamen, Netflix’s The Stranger) on a romantic trip to Paris to propose marriage. The young man opts for the train that travels underground across the Channel instead of the plane, to make the departure even more special.

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SAS – Rise of the Black Swan: Ruby Rose in a sequence from the film

Unfortunately for both the trip will prove unique for other reasons: to put a spoke in the wheel of the couple in being, in fact, comes a group of mercenaries (the Black Swans in fact) led by Grace Lewis (the former Batwoman Ruby Rose) who assaults the train by taking passengers hostage and threatening to blow it up. Tom will therefore have to balance his duty and love for the motherland with what he feels (apparently) for his girlfriend and be able to bring everyone home safe and sound. We say apparently because he too, like Grace and all the Lewis, does not seem to feel the slightest remorse for the killings carried out in the missions, since it is “work”. This worries Sophie, who on the contrary saves lives as a doctor, and therefore does not understand if Tom is really in love with her and if she can really trust him.

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SAS – The Rise of the Black Swan: Andy Serkis in a scene

This is what the whole story on the train will be for: to confront the protagonists with their own demons and make them go through a path of self-awareness and acceptance, so that Tom and Sophie try to understand the other’s point of view. Except that the path remains scratched, and if this, together with the dynamic direction that uses the environments and the claustrophobic effect of the train and the tunnel where the train remains blocked as much as possible, must have been the two elements that distinguished SAS: The rise of the Black Swan from other action thrillers, the result is poor. Not only for the unconvinced acting of the protagonists – despite the cast embellished by Tom Wilkinson and Andy Serkis, and the participation of Tom Hopper, the Luther of The Umbrella Academy – but also for the not fully successful staging. We try to stay within the canons of the genre, while departing from it, with quite predictable twists and an epilogue that leaves a little perplexing. The other aspect that would like to make the story different, that is the family one, also leaves the time it finds.

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SAS – The Rise of the Black Swan: Ruby Rose in a sequence

At the beginning, in fact, we are introduced to the Lewis – Grace and his brother Oliver (Owain Yeoman) and the father of the two (Wilkinson): neither of the three would think twice about killing the other, if it were to survive or for the sake of a mission. They don’t mind killing an entire village after all.
At the same time, the family unit is presented to us as the holder of an inconvenient truth of political corruption, on the British upper floors, almost as if it were also a film of denunciation on geopolitical interests often in progress. But even here we do not go much beyond the initial intentions. An attempt is made to give even more space to the female protagonists, such as Grace herself, an apparently heartless glacial villain (while the male heir, Olly, is considered an inept) and Sophie who in the moment of danger improvises herself as a heroine together with Tom and not. mere damsel to be saved, but without fully believing in it.


At the end of this SAS review: The Rise of the Black Swan, we feel like rejecting this new action thriller film that is added to the Netflix catalog despite the premise that it wanted to make it different from the previous ones, thanks to the co-production of Sky Cinema. Protagonists characterized too superficially and a psychological path promised but not implemented, as well as the familiar aspect and female characters only apparently strong and multifaceted, together with direction, photography and narrative structure quite in the canons of the genre, with few flashes, make the film for the most forgettable.

Because we like it

  • The desire to tell an action thriller by adopting a familiar and psychological approach, therefore with two new characteristics compared to the previous Netflix originals
  • A cast embellished with names like Tom Wilkinson and Andy Serkis…

What’s wrong

  • … But with young, still immature protagonists who offer little-felt performances
  • The in-depth study of the characters (including female ones) and the epilogue leave us perplexed and only scratch the surface
  • Few directorial and narrative flashes

SAS: The Rise of the Black Swan, the review: a failed family and psychological action thriller