By Craig Singleton (Wigan, England)
A thriller can go one of two ways for me. It can be a mindless yet entertaining journey for people’s enjoyment or it can be serious in creating a combination of suspense with unexpected moments to surprise an audience. I must have not paid any attention when watching the trailer for this because the film gave me something completely different to what I was expecting. Based upon the novel of the same name, this thriller is the directorial debut of Hossein Animi.
The story set in Athens, Greece sees a tour guide named Rydal played by Oscar Isaac who scams tourists out of their money. He meets a married couple Chester, a con man and Colette played by Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst. The couple invite Rydal to dinner and have a good evening of getting to know each other. They part their ways, but later in the night Chester gets into bother with a private detective demanding money from him. The man pulls out a gun, but ends up getting hurt. Chester tries to move the man and asks Rydal for his help who returns to give back Colette’s bracelet. Needing to go on the run, Rydal offers to help Chester flee the country.
There are a lot more details in the story which makes what the characters try to do very hard to accomplish. Colette likes Rydal as they connect well when in conversation, but Chester doesn’t trust him knowing that he is a smart con man. Chester feels he has no choice as he could end up in jail for his actions. The mains are the complete focus and driving force of the plot as the film doesn’t feel it needs any support. It is the wisest choice in my opinion as it becomes a more intimate affair. Most thrillers have a vast amount of characters in support that intervene with each other to create more obstacles. This film differs in the way that Chester himself is the obstacle. It’s his mistakes that can affect Rydal and Colette are what can change the whole outcome of the story.
The acting was very strong and well-rehearsed. Oscar Isaac is a great star impressing in last year’s Inside Llewyn Davis, he provides a different side to him. His character isn’t as emotional, but his expressions show the feelings. His reactions to everything made it completely believable in that I believe this person could exist in real life. Kirsten Dunst is an actor who is maturing, reaching her peak. After the criticisms of her performances in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films, she has evolved with great performances in recent years from the likes of Melancholia and All Good Things. Viggo Mortensen has great range in his performance. Acting drunk is hard for an actor to get right, but he performs it just right for me.
The film is stylized so straight-faced which made it a good experience. No relying on wit, fast shots or flamboyant characters. Animi creates the feeling for the viewer of not knowing what can happen next. There’s no time to anticipate it as it can happen in the blink of an eye. It’s got good merit from having good camera work and storytelling.
My score for the film is 82%. Lowest mark for soundtrack, highest for acting. Another surprising hit for a great year of dramatic thrillers that not many people seem to be watching, but I have the feeling they will though because they are very strongly acted and have engaging stories. Expecting bigger roles for Isaac in the future and hope that Dunst continues in the path she has been doing.