Ridley Scott delivers one of the more interesting thrillers you’ll see this year.You don’t see the words” Ridley Scott” and “good movie” in the same sentence too often these days. Scott may be a director with a legendary résumé, but his work of the last couple of decades has lacked the luster and intrigue his earlier work had. Compound that with the difficulties this movie has faced, such as having to cut Kevin Spacey’s scenes and reshoot them with Christopher Plummer in 9 days time, and you would be quick to assume this is a shoddy, quickly stitched together excuse of a movie. However, with this film, he delivers a good movie that is certainly worth a watch.
More often than not in this day and age of film, beauty is substituted for quality content. Too many moviemakers follow the flawed philosophy of video game developers that “If it looks good, it is good”. Sadly, that is not the case. A number of movies from this year across different genres, such as Blade Runner: 2049 and Father Figures, are beautifully shot but not good movies. Scott however, with a veteran’s touch, manages to make a film that looks good but doesn’t make the way the film looks the point of the film. Too many other directors in his position would’ve spent minutes during the film just throwing in pointless but nice to look at establishing shots, but Scott professionally sticks to the process of storytelling. He properly puts in nice shots when it fits the storytelling and never breaks the narration. The really great thing about this film is that despite being a very formulaic thriller, you are actually kept on your feet wondering what happens next and even though the entire film is predictable, you never see what comes next.
One of the bigger faults of this film is the script which is not very good. It does manage to keep audiences on their toes, guessing as to what happens next, but it never offers much in the way of deep characters, motifs, or metaphors. The script is strictly a storytelling experience and any character development or depth of any kind is an afterthought at best and more likely just a side effect. You can see as the movie progresses that it attempts, at times, to create this narrative between Plummer and Williams’ characters as a fight between rich and poor, money and family, but it falls so incredibly flat as the two characters are very much the same and the script does not walk the right line of showing that. It portrays them at odds. However, at the end of the day, they are essentially the same and she is oblivious to this fact while he sort of begins to understand it. Another fault is that it sticks so closely to the formula of early 2000’s thriller movies that it could have even been generated by a computer. It adds nothing new and only adds interest through graphic scenes of violence and wealth for the crowd to ogle at.
Now, when the script is relatively weak, that translates into relatively weak characters. Mark Wahlberg’s character is a perfect example of this. For all intents and purposes, Wahlberg is perfect for the role of Chase and he executes that to the fullest extent of the script, however, his character is incredibly undefined. His motives are unknown in the sense that the writers haven’t fleshed him out and because of this, the character is just there as a useless but cool plot device. Many characters throughout the film have that issue as well. Michelle Williams’ performance, on the other hand, is fraught with the opposite of that issue. Her motivations are quite clear but her performance is a caricature. She sounds like something that fell out of the 1920’s with weird vocal inflections and a strange and inconsistent accent. It was so peculiar that I had to look up the real woman she portrayed, Abigail Harris Getty, and find out how she spoke to see if she was just emulating the original person. However, that’s not the case and it is just a scenario where she is just assuming a weird persona. On top of that, after watching Abigail Harris Getty in her past interviews which Williams also reenacts, Getty clearly is grief-stricken and distraught with so many emotions laid bare on her face. Williams is much blander, but she does give some justice to the role. Christopher Plummer was plopped into the role and was forced to shoot everything in 9 days but to my shock, he was phenomenal. For a man of any age, let alone in his 80’s, to come into a film and domineer it as he did, is incredible. I can’t imagine anyone else in that role and would only imagine the version with Spacey in it would simply just not be as good. Solely judging from Spacey’s performance in the trailers and Plummer from the film, it’s clear to see that Plummer adds such a great deal of gravitas that few actors can compete with. If you need a reason to see this movie, it’s for his performance.
This film has an interesting story that is pretty well told on screen. If you like thrillers, then this is going to be a great movie for you. However, even if you don’t, the film is indulgent enough to cater to anyone’s moviegoing needs and while it may not be a great movie in general, it is a good movie.