A brilliant film that makes no cents.
Ben Affleck, JK Simmons and Anna Kendrick lead a stellar cast in a movie that is very much worse than the sum of its excellent parts.
The Accountant is about a child born with autism, raised in a broken household by a family that isn’t entirely what it seems, who grows up to be (after some unexplained prison time and a weird scene in the jungle?) a head hunting criminal account who can cook the books or bust the skulls. Unfortunately a turning point in the middle of the movie marks a sharp turn from violent but human drama to mindless action thriller, both sides of the movie are fantastically crafted but they fail to present a concise directorial vision and instead simply blur each other into an unsatisfying mess.
The first half of the movie is very performance driven and Ben Affleck is fantastic in the lead role. As protagonist Christian Wolff he is likeable and trustable, and ultimately a good man using bad means. Affleck doesn’t go for an over the top stereotype, instead portraying such a debilitating condition with precision and a genuine sense of respect.
Performances are absolutely on point, Alongside Affleck is Anna Kendrick who feels warm and friendly in a film where a great deal of the content is not. Unfortunately the script doesn’t use her to the best of its ability and when it does her character is often ham-fisted into the scene. For example the romance, which quickly becomes a nonsensical central plot element. The film does a good job of building a feeling of mutual trust between these two characters, but ultimately ends up driving towards an unnecessary and inconsequential romance, Kendrick and Affleck play it perfectly, but the audience is left wondering why it’s there in the first place.
Although where the performances shine, the editing does not. Scenes don’t linger long enough and sudden, un-needed cuts often make the dialogue feel artificial. meaning that whilst there is clearly great acting on screen its undermined by a lack of scene to scene pacing and a general feeling of disconnect between the screen and the audience.
Interestingly the entire movie is shot more like a horror than an action. The outside world, other people and organisations are often presented as cold or clinical despite being filled with set dressing and lights. Conversely Wolff’s house is empty and bare but feels welcoming and homely. All of this is tied together with the use of a number of intense, close up shots that give the whole first half (but only the first half) a real sense of claustrophobia, not for the audience but for protagonist Wolff and the world he finds himself in.
And then we reach a point where the film changes.
The second half is an all out, brutal and visceral action movie where Wolff is less recognisable for his personal hurdles and more for his actions and victims. This half of the movie should be where threads are tied together and resolved. But it ends with more questions than answers and it spends most of its time building to a crescendo that never really comes.
It must be said that the actions is spectacular, brutal and well choreographed. It’s also beautiful to watch. This is down to the stellar Cinematography and directing. Scenes are simultaneously cold and beautiful. Floaty and fluid, but grounded and violent at the same time. Unfortunately all of this talent is built on the shaky ground of the story and no matter how beautiful the shots on screen are, it’s never enough to pull the movie out of the hole it digs itself into.
But worse still is the cluttered closing scenes which muddle the films message even further. The morality of the characters is hard to pin down as they all try to do good things in very bad ways and often the motivations for these methods and decisions are lost in the jumbled plot. Meaning that if the film does have a positive message it gets mislaid among too many head shots and boring revelations. Then the final scenes which attempt to highlight a deep message instead feel tonally mismatched. I’m sure the director of the piece meant well, but the movie deals with delicate situations and contrasts them with heavy violence. In a more balanced film that could lead to something beautiful, but here it leads to either nothing, or something very negative indeed.
The accountant is an incredibly well made movie built on very wobbly foundations. It’s so easy to praise its excellent actors, director, cinematographer camera work and so on. But no matter how much praise you shower, it’s still a confusing, messy unsatisfying film. Perhaps it’s the intention of the director to make the movie feel disconnected and uneasy but intention or not, you’ll still leave your seat either sighing or bemused, if not both.
The Accountant scored: 5.2 / 10