When I first saw the movie “Miracle” back in 2004, never did it cross in my mind that one day this director will make a crime/action drama that’ll star Batman and make a movie about an accountant (for lack of better word) badass. Well, director Gavin O’ Conner has accomplished just that. I had the privilege to attend an early film screening and found myself completely immersed into the movie’s story and its characters. The “Warrior” director has crafted a thriller that is smart, well-acted, and well plotted. If you’re looking for a film to provide you with white knuckled tension, then you have the film made for you.
“The Accountant” is a movie that is better to know as least amount of information as possible before going into it. I decided to stay clear of trailers past the first one of the movie. I was sold and didn’t care to know much more. All I knew is, the movie is about an Accountant, there is something shady about him, he is incredibly gifted and that’s about it. So, I’m not going to give much plot details in this review. Knowing less about the story and discovering the twists and turns in part of what made it a fulfilling experience.
The screenplay is written by Bill Dubuque and relays heavily on mystery and misdirection (but not cheap misdirection). This works throughout the two hour running time. We are only given small insights into the pasts of our characters throughout the film. But Dubuque wisely keeps building upon that in small increments. Slowly, much like a jigsaw puzzle, the bigger picture comes together. Nearly every question is answered by the end of the film’s conclusion; all coming to satisfying end. The story is less concerned with the movie’s action/fight sequences then it is with building character and plot. I almost feel calling it an action movie isn’t quite an accurate description. While yes there is action in the movie but it’s not the crutch or driving force of “The Accountant”. Dubuque is far more interested in the movie’s characters than serving up thrilling set pieces.
Quite honestly one of the most surprising things about this movie is the wicked sense of humor that is sprinkled in throughout. “The Accountant” for the most part is a dark and tense affair but more frequently than you might except Dubuque and director Gavin O’ Conner throw in moments of humor and levity in surprising places. The effectiveness of this humor shows a maturity level in filmmaking. The humor could easily override the drama occurring in several scenes but O’Conner (and his crack team of editors) places these moments at the right time to give the audience a moment to breathe.
It takes a little bit to get to some of the more extended fight sequences (aside from a very tense opening sequence which sets up the entire narrative) but the movie never feels like it meanders getting there. Tension is built at the movie’s earliest moments to set up for the violence later down the road so the audience is given some satisfying payoff once it occurs (while done in a more overt fashion, Denis Villeneuve’s “Sicario” had a somewhat similar approach). It has been a very long time since a few fight scenes has made my stomach churn and fill with butterflies; made me grip my seat and my heart pound all at the same time. “The Accountant” gave me such a feeling.
The fight scenes here are really done with a combination of mid to close up shots (with some wide ones for good measure). O’ Connor directs the action in such a manner where it’s very clear what’s going on and the expert choreography is showed off but still gives the feeling of being in a claustrophobic brawl with another person.
I have to give a special shout out to the sound design team. Every punch and gun shot just sounded so beefed up. I felt every hard punch and the gun shots sounded authentic and ear rattling. This along with the film’s score by Mark Isham elevated the action scenes.
The performances in this movie are (nearly) all first rate. Ben Affleck continues to prove how great of an actor he is. Over the past few years he has no shortage of great performances and this is no exception. In many ways I think this is his most unique performance to date. J.K. Simmons gives a surprisingly venerable, harden and emotional performance. It just reminds me how much I enjoy him as an actor, always bringing his a-game. Jon Bernthal pops up into another major film and once again showcases his dynamic acting skills and how skilled he is in supporting roles. John Lithgow is good but I don’t think we got quite enough of him for his performance to make a strong impact (which is partly due to a little misstep storytelling wise). Cynthia Addai-Robinson does some fine work and Anna Kendrick is solid as well. She does play up the innocence of her character but sometimes feels a little overmatched by the talent around her.
Once we get to the end of the movie there are some major third act revelations that I think may work for some and not well for others. I know for me they do (without giving anything away). This is because it works well thematically from what was established. Some may find the third act contrived and a bit too convenient. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t also see how someone could feel that way because some of the twists are exactly that way in the movie; a little convenient and does stretch plausibility. But again everything in the movie works to the synchronization of the themes and plot of the narrative. The twists at the end carry heavy thematic weight to them and in that regard they did work me did work for me. I’m trying to be as vague as possible if you hadn’t notice.
I would say though (and although well rounded) I would have like to have seen Anna Kendrick’s character used a little more. She feels a little underutilized. And, I also think we needed to see a little more for John Lithgow’s character as well. Certain plot points would hit harder if we got to see more of him.
These are some minor issues though (and some might call them nitpicks) in an otherwise fantastic film. Some may have issues with the final act but for me “The Accountant” had me so locked in that I felt like I could roll with it bigger twists (which the movie oddly acknowledges some of the implausibility). The performances are great across the board (especially from star Ben Affleck and J.K. Simmons), the violence is pulse pounding, and the story is very well rounded and well plotted. This is the type of thriller I like to see in the theater (and should be seen in theaters). Maybe Gavin O’ Conner can a movie about a retail worker next?