Review by Joseph Fayed
As the film's tagline, "nothing is by accident" suggests, everything seems to happen for a reason. In Black Bags, we quickly learn that to be the case. What starts as a mystery unraveling around the accidental switch up of two suitcases onboard a bus loses focus and has a tonal shift that leaves viewers with an underwhelming ending.
The plot follows two women on a bus trip. Tess and Sara have identical black suitcases and set off a dangerous cat and mouse game when one discovers she’s swapped her bag with a killer’s. As they try to outsmart each other at every turn, deadly secrets are revealed. They learn that their meeting may not have been accidental, and they have more in common than they think.
The first act does a good job at introducing our hapless protagonist Tess. There are no dead giveaways on the surprises ahead, but both Tess and our antagonist Sara have their characters established within the first act. A bit of cheesy dialogue aside, nothing holds the film back from reaching its climax. From there, suspense finally sets in, and through the use of flashbacks, we are told why Sara demands her suitcase back.
While the question on everyone's minds is what Tess and Sara will do to each other, or — more importantly — what will happen to the suitcase, neither of those questions matter during the film's act. This is not due to a subplot or anything like that, it's because the story fizzles out once its climax is seemingly resolved. Any ounce of the cat and mouse game promised at the start turns into a Lifetime-esque movie of the week captured by on set lighting that looks straight out of a daytime soap opera. Leaving the story off with an uncertain ending 30 minutes prior would have been less frustrating than trying to wrap it up the way it did.
Not every thriller needs twist after twist, but the beginning, middle, and end of your story can't feel like they are dragging on and that you have exhausted all possibilities with your plot. Decent performances hold this thriller together. I can't help but wonder if this would have been better paced had this been an hour long episode of an anthology series. Black Bags unpacks all it has to offer, but overstays its welcome. The ending is quite unremarkable, which is never a good sign for a film that hopes to evoke shock and suspense.
Black Bags is now on VOD.