Going into Damascus Cover, I will concede that I was expecting something very typical of the genre. In some ways, my expectations held true, but they were exceeded in many others. Jonathan Rhys Meyers brings the role of Ari, an Israeli spy, to life in a freshly stoic and disturbed way. Something that I was enamored with regarding this film was that while there were obvious James Bond-esque qualities, Damascus Cover is not a carbon copy of those kind of movies. Ari is not unbelievably smart or untouchable in combat, as is often the case in spy films. Rather, he has a job to do and does the best he can to complete it with his realistic abilities.
Conversely, I found some of the supporting characters to be quite stale and predictable, which was in part due to dialogue that was sometimes wooden. However, the female lead, played by Olivia Thirlby, was surprisingly welcome. She had much more human qualities than your typical Bond girl, and felt more like a character than a plot device. The relationship between the two leads felt genuine, and the film didn't rely on excessive nudity or sex to show passion, which is a clear indicator of good chemistry between characters and between actors.
The film starts off with some expository voice over, which I almost always find trite. However, there was no lengthy drawn out exposition after the voice over, which was a huge plus. Damascus Cover jumps right into the action, and it keeps a good pace between action and emotional beats through out. Also being a thriller, the twists and turns in the plot are vital, and without giving anything away, I can say with certainty that Damascus Cover delivers in that aspect. There isn't any one obvious turning point that is expected and thereby sours the remainder of the experience. The main plot was somewhat stereotypical of the genre, but the execution was unique and flowed at a nice pace.
Overall, while certain aspects of the film failed to differentiate from the vast ocean of spy thrillers, there was excellent pacing and character interactions, as well as two very strong leads that made Damascus Cover stand above its peers. It's not easy to capture a high intensity thriller without a big box office budget, but this film never makes you think twice about its capabilities. The film took home myriad awards at the Boston Film Festival this past September, and they were well deserved.