‘The Bricklayer,’ an action thriller film starring Aaron Eckhart and Nina Dobrev, charts a dynamic duo’s undertaking of a dangerous mission detrimental to the CIA’s reputation and international relations. A former CIA operative, Victor Radek, wrongfully presumed to be dead, resurfaces and threatens to frame the agency for a number of foreign assassinations by leaking sensitive files. As a result, Director O’Malley has no choice but to reach out to retired agent Steve Vail and convince him to work for the Agency off-the-books once again. Thus, with a capable but rookie partner, Kate Bannon, along for the ride, Vail sets out on a mission to stop Radek and faces his own past in the process.
The film presents an intrinsically classic tale of conspiracy, espionage, and pure, unadulterated action. For the same reason, the story and its characters, especially Steve Vail, can come across as timeless and familiar, compelling people to wonder about their origin.
The Bricklayer Is a Classic Spy Thriller Based on a Book
‘The Bricklayer’ is not based on a true story. Instead, the film is an on-screen adaptation of the ‘Steve Vail’ series written by Paul Lindsay under the pseudonym Noah Boyd. The film seems to be loosely based on the eponymous first book of the duology and retains a few similarities when compared to the source material. Much like the books, Steve Vail, a retired law enforcement officer now working in the bricklaying industry, remains the center of the film’s narrative. Furthermore, the film holds on to narrative barebones like Kate Bannon’s addition and a ransom plot to preserve a resemblance to the source material.
However, apart from the same, the film diverges from the book’s canon in many ways and weaves its own path to modernize the tale and bring a new, exciting adventure to the screen. One key difference persists between Eckhart’s Vail and his bookish counterpart, namely the former’s career in the CIA rather than the FBI. Yet, the path that the film’s narrative takes remains familiar to the audience for the simple fact of its genre conventions. The rogue protagonist who refuses to play the rules, forced into a partnership with a by-the-book, strait-laced agent, has been a trope for a long time.
Similarly, the mentor-mentee aspect of Vail and Kate’s professional relationship remains reminiscent of a dynamic close to the action genre. Several action film franchises, such as, ‘Men In Black’ and ‘The Kingsmen,’ have famously employed this same trope to great success. As such, viewers are bound to retain a sense of familiarity with ‘The Bricklayer.’
Moreover, the film’s old-school spy thriller feel, an intentional decision made by director Renny Harlin, further distinguishes this film as a new story within a familiar framework. Thus, with a focus on action bereft of special effects for the most part and an emotional core to the narrative that the audience could connect to, ‘The Bricklayer’ presents an entertaining espionage story.
Paul Lindsay’s Career in the FBI
Despite being a fictional tale, ‘The Bricklayer’ holds some formidable connections to reality due to its source material. Paul Lindsay, author of the ‘Steve Vail’ series, had a longstanding career in the FBI that even overlapped with his literary endeavors. One of his earliest books, 1992’s ‘Witness to the Truth,’ even landed the man in trouble for insubordination since his superiors believed the book divulged too much “inside information.”
Eventually, Lindsay decided to quit his career as a law enforcer due to complications. The man spoke to the Boston Herald about the same in 2010 and said, “My first 15 years in the FBI were a dream. If I’d had the money, I’d have paid them to let me do it. But in the last five years, ever since I came back from the Green River murders, it started getting really bad,” he said, explaining his experience within the field. “There were so many career-building managers who’d never worked a case and ended up becoming bosses.”
Consequently, with a three-book deal and plenty of inspiration, Lindsay created Steve Vail’s character and embarked on transcribing his adventures. Even though the author sadly couldn’t complete the trilogy on account of his death in 2011 due to Leukemia, his first two books inherited a refreshing authenticity through his professional experience. As such, Vail, a former FBI Agent, inevitably harvested some inspiration from the author’s life and career. When discussing the same, the author said he likely shares similarities to his character “to a certain degree,” describing Vail as “maybe the guy I’d [Lindsay] like to have been.”
In that regard, Vail’s on-screen counterpart, even if a CIA Agent, holds inherent ties to Lindsay’s real life. Nevertheless, the adventures that Vail embarks on within Harlin’s film remain firmly cemented in fiction. In real life, there are no records of a real-life CIA operative going rogue and blackmailing the Agency with threats of unpleasant international relations as a revenge plot. Therefore, ‘The Bricklayer,’ with roots in Lindsay’s work, remains fictional.
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