James Harper on phone

"The Contractor" is a 2022 white knuckle thriller starring Chris Pine and Ben Foster. The film, directed by Tarik Saleh and written by J.P. Davis, focuses on the exploits of Special Forces Sergeant James Harper (played by Chris Pine), an ex-Green Beret who is driven to take on private contractor work due to financial necessity.

Although James and his wife, Brianne (played by Gillian Jacobs), are skeptical about the nature of contractor work, James decides to take part in a dangerous (and high-paying) operation at the behest of his old friend, Mike Hawkins (played by Ben Foster).

While the movie’s not the most creative addition to the special ops thriller sub-genre, the muted charisma and chemistry shared between the two leads really make the movie. Pine, as the honorable Harper, is magnetic, as always. And Foster, as Hawkins, brings his distinct yet subdued wild man presence to his role.

Beyond its performances, the film features some great action set pieces and enough twists and turns to keep audiences guessing about where the plot will go next. Fans of "The Contractor" may be looking for similar films to watch, and luckily, they have several options at their disposal.

Ronin

The ronins are briefed

This film features Robert De Niro in a lead performance alongside actors like Jean Reno, Stellan Skarsgård, Natascha McElhone, Sean Bean, and Jonathan Pryce: It’s 1998’s "Ronin," and it’s awesome. The film follows De Niro’s titular masterless warrior; a former CIA spook turned mercenary named Sam Regazolli.

Sam gets hired by McElhone’s IRA rep Deirdre to steal a valuable case that is being transported across Europe. Sam joins a team that includes a mix of former British, French, and Russian special forces. Naturally, none of the mysterious mercenaries trust one another. Watching De Niro’s character interrogate his teammates in every conversation is just as entertaining as the film’s incredible car chase sequences.

One chase, in particular, shot on location in French cities like Nice and Paris, reaches the same heights as early action benchmarks like "The French Connection" and "Bullitt." Plus, famed playwright David Mamet reportedly beefed up the script before the film went into production, so the script really crackles. Fans of espionage and thriller should definitely seek this one out.

Hell or High Water

Toby and Tanner make getaway

Movie fans looking for another example of the sparkling chemistry between Chris Pine and Ben Foster need to look no further than 2016’s "Hell or High Water." The movie is a modern spin on classic Western archetypes, and it features a stellar supporting performance from Jeff Bridges.

The story follows the Howard brothers: Toby (Pine), who is younger, smarter, and more reserved, and Tanner (Foster), who is older, wilder, and violent. In the opening scene of the film, the pair are shown kicking off a spree of robberies across West Texas. Bridge’s veteran Texas ranger Marcus Hamilton is called in to catch the robbers.

While "Hell or High Water" doesn’t fall into the ex-soldier or espionage subgenre, fans impressed by the shorthand between Pine and Foster in "The Contractor" should definitely check out "Hell or High Water." It was the first time the pair teamed up, and they’re simply phenomenal as the Howard brothers.

Reviews highlighted the way actors support each other on screen and the original dialogue from screenwriter Taylor Sheridan. All in all, "Hell or High Water" may not be reinventing the Western genre wheel, but its performances, dialogue, and live setting make it stand above other contemporary entries in the timeless genre.

Without Remorse

John Kelly in water

2021’s " Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse" received middling reviews upon its initial release. However, this shouldn’t deter special ops fans from checking out Amazon Video’s entry into the Clancy-verse. The movie, based on author Tom Clancy’s 1993 thriller, follows Navy SEAL John Kelly’s quest for revenge after his squad is double-crossed and his family is murdered.

Kelly, played by human charisma machine Michael B. Jordan, is essentially a force of nature. He’s a human hammer, and there are plenty of nails standing in his way. While some critics derided the movie’s plot for being a bit confusing and dense, Jordan’s army of one act is worth the price of admission alone. Plus, director Stefano Sollima (who did incredible work on the global crime thriller series "ZeroZeroZero") stages some really incredible set pieces.

A plane crash in the waters off the coast of Russia takes place halfway through the film. The entire sequence is shot to look like a singular take and mostly keeps the action localized to the plane’s sinking fuselage. It’s tense, thrilling, and impressive to behold.

Triple Frontier

Pope and Redfly in forest

2019’s "Triple Frontier" is an interesting entry in the special ops thriller subgenre. It blends the classic men on a mission formula, the heist movie, and the morality play into a film about former elite soldiers who rob South American drug dealers. It’s basically commandos meets "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre."

Ben Affleck stars as Tom "Redfly" Davis alongside muscular actors like Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garret Hedlund, and Pedro Pascal. Since it’s a movie, naturally, the robbery and getaway don’t go according to plan, and the farther the men attempt to take their spoils, the higher the cost of their efforts becomes.

The script, co-written by J.C. Chandor and Mark Boal, puts a heavy emphasis on the dire financial straits most of the ex-elite operators find themselves in after leaving the military. Straightforward shootouts scored by gunfire instead of music build tension while keeping the movie grounded in realism. And South American vistas make for stunning scenery for the cagey men to bounce off one another in. All of this combines to make a film well worth a movie fan’s time.

Spartan

Scott sitting with journal

2004’s "Spartan," directed by David Mamet, features Delta Force operator Robert Scott (played with steely nerve and professionalism by the late great Val Kilmer), who is secretly tasked with rescuing the president’s daughter after she’s kidnapped and held for ransom. However, Mamet’s smart script zigs and zags at every opportunity elevate "Spartan" far beyond other similar films like the "Taken" series (although the first one is awesome).

Kilmer’s backed by other great actors, including William H. Macy, Clark Greg, and an early turn from Kristen Bell. The movie was a hit with critics upon release: Famed movie critic Roger Ebert described Kilmer’s performance as the actor’s "best performance since "’Tombstone.’"

He also praised Mamet’s snappy dialogue. Anybody looking to see more of Kilmer’s work or hear more examples of the ways Mamet plays with jargon should definitely go check out "Spartan." Like its namesake, it’s lean, mean, and in a different class than a lot of its peers.

Blackhat

Hathaway sits in prison

2015’s "Blackhat" directed by Michael Mann and starring Chris Hemsworth, should’ve been a slam dunk. But upon release, the movie didn’t entirely live up to expectations. However, this film might be worth revisiting.

After a nuclear plant in Hong Kong is hacked, the FBI and the Chinese Government put together a task force to track down the cybercriminal behind the dangerous attack. In order to ensure their team can get the bad actor, they release cybercriminal Nicholas Hathaway (Hemsworth) from prison to assist with the investigation. The movie follows the investigation as the stakes (and the body count) keep rising.

For Mann fans, revisiting "Black Hat" is a no-brainer. It Is uniquely shot and features a few jaw-dropping action sequences. However, its most tense moments (like a journey into the radioactive nuclear plant to recover a computer server) focus on destruction made possible by evil people behind keyboards.

Hemsworth’s charisma is slightly played down for the role, but he naturally emerges as the movie’s hero. It may not be the most obvious choice for fans of thrillers about hatchet men for the powers that be, but "Blackhat" is definitely worth a movie fan’s time.

The Killer Elite

Locken draws down

Hollywood legends Robert Duvall and James Caan go head to head in 1975’s "The Killer Elite." In the thriller, Duvall and Caan play CIA enforcers George Hansen and Mick Locken, respectively. After Hansen betrays Locken (and the agency), Locken vows revenge and takes on a mission that entails protecting a diplomat. Since the film is an action thriller, Hansen leads the team paid to assassinate the diplomat in Locken’s protection.

As if the setup wasn’t enough, "The Killer Elite" is also directed to 1970s gritty action movie perfection by directing madman Sam Peckinpah (he’s the brain behind violent hits like "The Wild Bunch" and "Cross of Iron"). In his 1975 review, critic Roger Ebert specifically cites Peckinpah’s use of the movie’s San Francisco settings as a grace note.

Duvall and Caan are fantastic in the lead roles. They bring jaded professionalism to their characters and keep the movie grounded (even as the plot gets increasingly byzantine). Plus, Caan’s character trains in a rare martial art form that enables its practitioners to be deadly with a walking cane. Silly? Perhaps, but it’s definitely another reason to check out "The Killer Elite."

Shooter

Swagger pointing gun at assailant

2007’s "Shooter," directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Mark Wahlberg, is an action classic. The plot revolves around Wahlberg’s Bobby Lee Swagger, an ex-special forces sniper. When Swagger is set up as the fall guy in an attempt on the president’s life, he goes rogue to get the baddies and clear his name.

This film, in the hands of any other director, may have been a bargain bin actioner. However, Fuqua’s confident action direction shines in masterful set pieces that include a raid on an isolated farmhouse.

Plus, Wahlberg’s supported by an all-star cast including Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Danny Glover, and Ned Beatty. Peña, in particular, brings enough humor and general good-guy energy to each scene he’s in. By the time the credits roll, Peña basically walks off with the movie.

And if all that weren’t enough, Hollywood stalwart Ned Beatty shows up as a crooked senator for a scene or two and chews scenery like it’s going out of style: It’s glorious. Any fan who likes movies about rogue agents on the run need to look no further than "Shooter."

Green Zone

Roy Miller fights contractors

Matt Damon stars in the turbulent wartime thriller "Green Zone." In the film, Damon plays a special forces operator named Roy Miler, who specializes in bomb detection and deactivation. The movie is set in Iraq in 2003, and it follows Miller’s efforts to track down Iraq’s alleged collection of weapons of mass destruction. Eventually, he smells something rotten in Denmark, sets out to find the truth, and winds up running afoul of the State Department after stumbling across an enormous conspiracy.

The story, based on real events, stirred up some controversy when it was initially released. While the movie’s likely not best viewed as a history lesson, it is a taut, well-acted action thriller set in a very recent (and major) event in U.S. history. The film even reunites Damon with "Bourne Identity" director Paul Greengrass, which should make the price of admission worth the viewing for any action head.

Greengrass brings his signature handheld, on-the-ground shooting style to "Green Zone." In other words, gunfights seem to unfold in real-time, and a sense of mounting tension runs throughout the film. By the time the climax arrives, viewers will probably feel a slight sense of relief.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Operators arrive on base

Michael Bay’s "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi" dramatizes the heroic efforts of private military contractors (largely ex-special forces operators) to protect U.S. officials stranded in a diplomatic compound after the compound was attacked by terrorists in 2012.

While Bay’s film was criticized for oversimplifying the real-life events the film depicts, the movie’s worth seeking out for Bay fans and anyone interested in geo-political action thrillers. Plus, it features "The Office’s" John Krasinski in his first action role.

Krasinski now stars in Amazon’s "Jack Ryan" series as the titular CIA analyst, and he has even portrayed Mr. Fantastic in "Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness." However, "13 Hours" is his first performance as an action hero, and to Krasinski’s credit, it’s a strong one.

He’s believable in the role and meshes well with the characters portraying the rest of the squad, which notably includes James Badge Dale and Pablo Schreiber. Viewers be warned: "13 Hours" is by no means a history lesson, but it is an entertaining action film nonetheless.