Greetings again from the darkness. Argentinian writer-director Damian Szifron was behind the terrific WILD TALES (2014), which received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, and this time out, he and co-writer Jonathan Wakeham venture into psychological crime procedural territory. A captivating opening sequence, expert photography, and top notch acting from the two leads keeps us watching, although there seems to have been some confusion on the best path for the script. The end result is watchable, but not memorable.
It is New Year’s Eve in Baltimore and celebrations, revelry, and parties are occurring all over the city. As beat cop Eleanor Falco (Shailene Woodley, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, 2014) negotiates a mundane rift between an irritated diner owner and a slow-eating customer, shots begin to ring out. This frantic sequence captures the panic as we witness a few of the 29 gun shots that find a target. Officer Falco races a couple of blocks to the high-rise building where an explosion occurs. It turns out the sniper destroyed his own lair in order to avoid leaving evidence.
Enter renowned FBI Agent Lammark (Ben Mendelsohn, ANIMAL KINGDOM, 2010) who takes charge of the investigation. This point is mentioned because the chain-of-command plays a vital role in the proceedings … Lammark wants to run the investigation, but bureaucrats and politicians interfere. Lammark hones in on Falco and her instincts. Of course, she has a checkered past that includes having her FBI application denied. Here she acts as a liaison and provides insight into the killer. Get it? One damaged person can relate to another.
Some social commentary gets periodically interjected – gun control, power plays by law enforcement, misplaced priorities by politicians – but the fun part is watching Mendelsohn and Woodley flash their respective talent. She’s kind of a flawed Clarice Starling and he’s a guy that is committed to finding the bad guy. Filmed in Montreal, cinematographer Javier Julia maintains a cool atmosphere throughout, and Carter Burwell’s music delivers some excellent piano parts. This ends up being one of those movies that’s enough fun to watch if you don’t think too hard while it’s playing, and it also reminds us that Ben Mendelsohn and Shailene Woodley are fine actors who deliver in every role.
Opens in theaters on April 21, 2023
I was riveted by Shailene Woodley and Ben Mendelsohn’s characters, so I totally agree with you about them. I was also surprised how deep into the killer’s psyche the story actually goes. We don’t see much of Ralph Ineson’s character, the killer, until it’s time, but he also delivered a perfect performance. This movie was my favourite crime drama so far this year. Thanks for the review.
Ben and Shailene are fun to watch – and it was filmed in your backyard!
I know; I would have liked to be an extra, just to meet them 🙂