“We’re going to teach you a little about everything, so that you can lie about anything.”
Hollywood con artists are typically painted with a light tone and a glamorous sheen that is entirely absent from Sharper, a neo noir thriller set in a dark and clinical New York rather than the bright lights of Vegas. There is plenty of slick, moody cinematography (Charlotte Bruus Christensen also shot Molly’s Game) capturing these characters in cold hues that serves to reinforce a lack of chemistry or genuine emotion behind much of the melodrama. This datchment seems to be a directorial choice rather than a fault of the actors and Sharper is to be commended for forging its own path rather taking the easier derivative route, but the result is audience disengagement. Much of the winding plot is predictable, and the script commits the common sin of inserting one too many twists. For all its seriousness, beneath the surface Sharper manages to be just as soulless as some of the genre’s worst offenders.
“Who are we if we can’t protect them? We have to protect them.”
John Krasinski’s second feature-length directorial outing is excellent, tightly constrained, high concept survival horror with an emphasis on tone. The conceit of blind reptilian creatures with incredible hearing is perfect for film, allowing for tense sequences that do not rely on darkness masking what we can see. Some of the film’s tensest moments occur in broad daylight, although its final act still unfolds at night. The excellent sound design demands watching in a quiet environment or with headphones. We learn about the characters gradually (it is a film best experienced with as little knowledge as possible), with their depth coming from broader themes about family, grief and guilt. Like many such films, narrative holes emerge upon close inspection, but that does not detract at all from the exhaustingly atmospheric experience Krasinski has crafted.
“You know what makes you feel okay about losing? Winning.”
Aaron Sorkin is one of a rare breed of screenwriters whose name can be the biggest draw in a film. Fans will be pleased by his signature style of sharp, rapid dialogue, applied here to the based-on-true events story of a woman who ran a high-stakes underground poker game, expertly using the tempo of language to build and relieve tension. Sorkin’s directorial debut, his approach is assured but not particularly noteworthy, with some unnecessarily convoluted time jumping. Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba both excel.