The opening half hour of Deep Water depicts a failing marriage, wonderfully acted by Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas in a way which communicates poignantly that Melinda’s infidelity hurts Vic less than her carelessness in conducting affairs. Unfortunately this is followed by 90 minutes of turgid plot-driven and coincidence-laden mildly erotic thriller after Vic is accused of murder. The characters react in wholly unrealistic ways that the audience is expected to accept with throwaway lines in a script that rarely scratches beneath the surface — overt acknowledgments that Vic is “weird” are woefully insufficient. Deep Water may have been intended to explore the complexities of human desire and relationships but the result feels more like a lurid revenge fantasy, made all the more disappointing by its engaging opening act. Whilst it may mark Adrian Lyne’s return to directing after 20 years, Deep Water does little to suggest we have missed much in the interim.
“Maybe a man who broods in a cave for a living isn’t cut out to be a recruiter.”
After the chore of Batman v Superman, I had no interest in seeing another grimdark Zack Snyder superhero movie, but — having avoided the 2017 theatrical version of Justice League — curiosity finally has the better of me. I will readily accept that this is a better version of the movie as there would simply have been no way to condense this material into the two-hour film mandated by the studio. The new cut runs to nearly four hours and, whilst that is certainly too long, much of this was needed to introduce three new heroes and a villain. The Flash is introduced effectively through a concise rescue sequence that showcases both his powers and personality, but the other hero introductions are fragmented and inefficient: we see more brooding than character, piecing things together from what others say. Steppenwolf is a generic hulking villain in spiky CG armour that is intricate but uninteresting; the character is little more than a vehicle to introduce Darkseid as a future antagonist (Snyder’s extended epilogue further telegraphs what he would like to have done with the DCEU but introducing yet more characters in a film already overcrowded with new faces is unhelpful). Most of the action is hollow and repetitive, predominantly characters punching or throwing each other into walls, interspersed with slow-motion hero poses and computer-generated particle effects. It occurs in locations that are intended to be vast and epic, but frequently feel like the empty backdrops of a fighting game rather than organic, connected spaces. Snyder’s use of a 4:3 aspect ratio has been derided and “preserving his vision” of IMAX framing does seem self-indulgent for a film that is only available on streaming services. In practice, it is easy to forget and little use is made of the additional frame height to actually warrant the unusual choice. When it comes to tone, there is something to be said for not falling into the MCU pattern of undercutting more serious moments with levity. Nolan’s Batman trilogy showed how well grittier realism can work but, when every moment becomes bleak and overbearing, the experience is turgid and exhausting. Ultimately, Zack Snyder’s Justice League will not change anyone’s mind about his take on the DC universe: Snyder fans will see this release as vindication, whilst others will consider it another incredibly expensive testament to style over substance. With his name in the title, this is plainly a very personal project for Snyder, showing brief flourishes of excellence but mostly feeling soulless, whilst making grand promises about theoretical future films that are unlikely ever to be realised.
Disclosure: I know personally at least one person involved in the making of this film.
Political thriller State of Play deserves credit foremost for successfully trimming down a five-hour BBC miniseries into a coherent two-hour film. The result is dense with exposition and can feel rushed, but that also adds to a sense of urgency. The investigative journalist perspective now feels almost nostalgic, reminiscent of All The President’s Men. A high calibre cast compensates for a lack of character development, and I wish Helen Mirren’s editor had more screen time. Whilst the interplay between The Globe’s ailing print edition and rising online presence is already antiquated a decade on, the lucrative domestic expansion of military contractors remains just as relevant.
“I like Dogs Playing Poker. Because dogs would never bet on things; so it’s incongruous. I like incongruity.”
Although it is equal parts a competent crime thriller and a character study of an isolated mathematician savant, The Accountant is essentially a disguised superhero movie that in some ways makes up for the fact that Affleck’s Batman will never see a solo outing. Christian Wolff’s “powers” are rooted in his autism and a childhood primed by his father to resist bullies. This manifests in rather more robust skills than the typical chartered professional, and a peculiar moral compass that allows him to work with some criminal enterprises in rooting out financial irregularities, whilst engaging in vigilante justice against others. The bursts of action are well-choreographed and blessedly free of jump-cuts. It is The Accountant‘s pacing as much as the violence which makes this a strictly adult affair. Although high-functioning autism has become a trope, it is handled here with some sensitivity and it would be reductive to boil Wolff’s character down to nothing more than “socially awkward Batman” (which is, arguably, just Batman). Affleck injects welcome nuance to his performance, particularly in his scenes with Anna Kendrick. However, the awkwardly preachy post-conclusion scene is… incongruous.
“If I ever start referring to these as the best years of my life — remind me to kill myself.”
Following a group of high school students on the last day of school in the summer of 1976, I found this initially uncomfortable viewing because of the seemingly uncritical view of socially condoned violence. In fact this is more verisimilitude as Linklater accurately captures the aimless desires and insecurities of adolescence at a specific point in time.