A superb little quaint thriller with acting that astounds.
While the action captures the screen it never itself devolves into spectacle and instead only exists to serve the story. Reminding us that despite the surroundings this story at its heart is a father trying to save his once missing daughter.
From the opening, director Jean-François Richet really begins to play. The interestingly chosen camera positioning reflects the distress of the encountered situations very well. It undistractedly serves to amplify the acting that is the centerpiece of this picture. The well-orchestrated use of the diagonal dutch angle in the opening shots stunningly increases the impact of the opening scene. Richet’s blocking combined with the unique technique immediately separates the demented situation, a woman bein held at gunpoint, from Lydia’s reaction and powerlessness — Lydia is portrayed by Erin Moriarty.
Another correct decision to enhance instead of distance us from the acting is the low tone mostly absent score, which supplements the opening and action well. In the first half of the feature, it’s used to transition between scenes and rarely plays over any. As the story progresses it only plays over the action leaving us alone with the characters and their portrayers’ sheer power. That is until it breaks its streak and is used to enhance the final moments.
The picture follows Lydia, framed for a stealing a fortune by her drug-dealing boyfriend and now being pursued by the boyfriend’s cartel. Left as the fall guy she turns to her estranged father ex-con John Link, portrayed by Mel Gibson. After Link realizes that his daughter’s danger is very much a reality and not a drug-induced delusion. Link embarks on a mission to save his daughter from the ruthless cartel. As Lydia unravels the strings of her circumstances they turn to prove her innocence and show her boyfriend’s true nature to the cartel.
While the screenplay usually has little of a part to play in an action thriller feature, here it wields a well-crafted story. The likely source for this was Peter Craig’s 2005 novel of the same name, which the film was adapted and that Peter Craig also co-wrote the screenplay himself with Andrea Berloff.
Gibson’s character John Link has been crafted to near perfection as his daughter’s situation sends him down a road back into his past. While Erin Moriarty has playing both a reflection of her father past and being on the run to work with as Lydia. Giving the actors a set of golden character dynamics to salvage. All while they are both being pressed back into a troubled father-daughter relationship they have been mostly absent from leaving them to face past issues and get to know each other again. On the acting side, while Gibson’s performance is sublime and his name headlines the picture it’s hard to avoid that fact that Erin Moriarty’s performance and character easily challenge his leading role title.
Stepping into awards season territory this title is unlikely to receive the attention it deserves because of factors unrelated to the film. However, those that do take the dive into it to enjoy a movie, they will be surprised by its immensely powerful nature.
While playing on the most populated modern cinema minefield of the action genre, this superb picture knows well to avoid spectacle, maintaining a story driven action and making good use of artful techniques within the blocking and camera positioning.
About the Author
Editor-in-Chief of Tastic Film Magazine James Rush. Follow @byjamesrush