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The Accountant – Review

23 Oct

I’m pretty excited to finally get to writing this review because this is a movie that I have been super excited for since I first saw the trailer. I’m always ready to see new and original movies, and The Accountant falls into that category perfectly. It’s worth noting, however, that the marketing for this movie paints it out to be an action thriller that features Ben Affleck kicking all sorts of ass. While this does happen, this is more of a complex character study with a huge mystery at its core. That’s something I didn’t think I wanted, but I’m really pleased that this movie offers something a lot more complicated and thought provoking than something more straight forward.

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Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) may seem like an average small town accountant on the surface, be he is much more than that. Suffering from a severe form of autism has made Wolff very aware of patterns and numbers, which makes him the perfect candidate to un-cook books of high level criminals and businessmen. After being hired by a large corporation called Living Robotics and finding major discrepancies in their books, both Wolff and an association of the company, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), are being sought after by mysterious hitmen led by a man known only as The Assassin (Jon Bernthal). As Wolff begins to hunt down the parties responsible, the director of financial crimes at the Treasury Department, Raymond King (J.K. Simmons), and a new hire, Medina (Cynthia Abbai-Robinson), start their own hunt to find the mysterious accountant and bring him to justice.

In the beginning of this movie, we see a young Christian Wolff putting together a puzzle that’s been flipped over so he can’t see the picture. To me, that’s a perfect allegory for The Accountant. The story is deliberately told in a way that it’s impossible to see the entire picture without all of the pieces coming together. This can make the plot kind of frustrating at times because we’re left in the dark about so much as the story jumps between flashbacks and action happening in the present. It’s definitely a movie that I’m going to have to watch again to really get the full picture. I was really surprised with the level of complexity the story has and the unorthodox way that director Gavin O’Connor and writer Bill Dubuque told it. That’s the best way I think I can describe this movie: surprisingly unorthodox.

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With all the mystery surrounding the Wolff and certain side characters, there really isn’t a whole lot of time for action, despite what the marketing campaign wanted people to believe. Most of the movie focuses on laying clues as to who the accountant is and how he got to be who he is. That being said, when this movie turns up the action, it really turns it up. The action never goes over the top nor does it ever seem like none of it could only happen in the movies. It’s all very grounded and happens very quickly which means if you blink, you may miss something. It was a really smart way to handle the violence and more exciting scenes. Never does it overshadow the bigger point of the movie and never do you find yourself getting lost in what could have been mind numbing action.

I can’t talk about The Accountant and not dive into the character of Christian Wolff, who might be my favorite character of the entire year. There’s so much to this guy when it comes to his history, motivations, and skills. From the very first trailer, I had to know who this guy was and see him in action, and Ben Affleck does a great job at bringing this character to life. I never thought Affleck had much charisma in his acting, which makes him a perfect choice to play a subdued character like this. Every small tick or deadpan line of dialogue is done really well and makes Wolff into a much more believable and realized character. If you don’t get grabbed by this character, there is something seriously wrong with you and you should probably just stop watching movies.

Despite some odd pacing choices and a plot that is occasionally frustrating, The Accountant is a very satisfying and surprisingly unique story. Ben Affleck gives one of the best performances of his career and really succeeded at bringing this troubled character to life. The cast is great, the writing is unorthodox, and O’Connor’s direction just brings it all together perfectly. Just be warned that you can’t leave your brain at the door for this one.

Final Grade: A-

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Fury – Review

12 Nov

In the latter days of World War II, much of the fighting involved the tactical brutality that was tank warfare. As any historian or buff of the second world war knows, the American tanks were completely outdone by the far superior Nazi tanks, and while this was terrible for the soldiers in the war, it makes for a great idea for a movie. That movie is finally here with David Ayer’s Fury. This is a movie that has its flaws in its predictability and a pretty messy middle section, but I’d still have to say that it is one of the best, if not the best, war film since Saving Private Ryan.

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The year is 1945 and victory for the Allied forces seems like a good possibility, but that doesn’t mean that the German army isn’t using everything it has to defend Berlin, including women and children. Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) is a tank commander with the best team he could possibly ask for. There’s the gunner, Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LaBeouf); the loader, Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal); and the driver, Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Peña). When one of the team dies, he is replaced by Norman (Logan Lerman), who has to work hard to prove his loyalty to the crew but also his bravery in battle. When the team receives the important mission to defend a vital cross road, they treat it as if it’s a mission that they’ve all gone through before, but this is the mission that will truly test their metal as a vast German platoon advances on their position.

After seeing the movie, it has become more obvious that Fury means a lot more than just the tank’s name. While I figured this going into the movie, I wasn’t sure exactly how Ayer was going to treat the war. It’s easy to make a war movie where you sympathize with the good guys and cheer them on, while it’s much easier to hate the bad guys and hope their soldiers will be defeated. This is even the case in Saving Private Ryan, what I consider to be the greatest war film ever made. Fury takes an interesting stance in this case. It isn’t easy to like the characters in the American tank, even Pitt’s character which you would think would be the knight in shining armor. Every character, other than Lerman’s, has been changed by the war at the start of the movie, making them seem like vengeful, bloodthirsty warriors rather than the heroic soldiers marching into battle, as World War II movies often depict them.

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Probably the best part about this film is actually the sound design. When I found out the sound was done by Paul N.J. Ottosson, I realized why it was so good. Ottosson is responsible for the near deafening, if not astoundingly perfect sound work in The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, having won the Academy Award for both of those films. If he wins again for Fury, I wouldn’t be surprised at all. Shells whistle and machine guns roar with such depth and power that it feels like you’re really in the middle of a tank battle. Sound can make or break a movie, and it really bolsters this one. The costume and set work are also really excellent, especially at the various American camps and the claustrophobic interior of the tank. It’s an effectively depressing looking movie.

Now, as I stated before, there are some major problems with Fury that made me pretty uncomfortable in my seat. For one thing, it’s a very predictable movie. For all of its unconventionality, the films still follows a core formula where you can more than guess the ending. That was something I could live with, but there is a section in the middle that lasts about 15 minutes that was almost unbearable. There’s so much intensity in the first part of the film that when it slows down, it feels like somebody slammed on the breaks without thinking to slow down a little bit first. While this is a short part of the movie, it’s so boring and drawn out that it feels a lot longer. Luckily, the insane third act more than makes up for this awkward middle section.

Fury is an intense war film that takes the glamour out of everything Hollywood ever tried to put into a war movie. While we cheer for the American soldiers, it’s hard to like them at the same time while there is signs of humanity in the opposing forces, something that hasn’t really been seen except in a film like The Pianist. This is a brutal, devastating, but really entertaining movie that is worth seeing more than once. The sound, sets, and score were all equally fantastic and it does my heart good to see a film that’s so easy to like.