It took me months to watch The Accountant, and an equally long time to finally review it! Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff, on the surface an accountant and a math savant, but underneath he’s something more. When a low level accountant (Anna Kendrick) at a major robotics and prosthetics company discovers some discrepancies in their financial records, the head of the company (John Lithgow) brings in Wolff to “uncook” the books and perform a forensic audit on his company to figure out where funds are being leaked to and by whom. Wolff is a highly functioning autistic math savant so solving the numbers case is simple to him; much simpler than dealing with the staff of the facility, especially Kendrick’s character Dana who shows genuine interest in the problem and wants to help. But Wolff prefers to act as a “lone wolf” and it takes barely a day for him to confirm the findings and get a lead on who might be behind them. As he gets closer to the truth though, the suspects start dying. Unknown to his employers, Wolff is not just an accountant, he’s also a professional assassin who likes to take matters into his own hands when he sees a wrong that needs to be righted. As the plot thickens Wolff is brought into conflict with another assassin hired by the person responsible for stealing the company funds. Unbeknownst to Wolff, the other assassin is his estranged brother Brax (Jon Bernthal). Naturally the two meet in the film’s climax, but what will be the results?
Very few actors are as polarizing to audiences as Ben Affleck. He’s one of those actors who it seems people either love or hate. I’m probably in the minority here, because I’m more “middle of the road” with him. I haven’t seen that many of his films, but of those that I did see, there were some I liked, and some I didn’t. I really liked him in Gone Girl where I think he did a tremendous job of making me forget he was Ben Affleck. I didn’t really like him in Argo, where I found his directing solid, but his own performance very bland, and very “Ben Affleck”. Here though I enjoyed him. His performance was confident, and once again, he didn’t seem too “Ben Affleck” for the part. He clearly did his research when it came to playing an autistic character, and he was very expressive in his performance. The action scenes too were very good, and kept me entertained and engaged. I really like Anna Kendrick, and she was her usual fun and slightly quirky self in the role as a junior accountant, but she may have been a little underutilized, and at the same time a little forced into the script. J.K. Simmons as a director at the Treasury Department who has been on Wolff’s trail for years (but not exactly for the reasons we expect) was excellent as always. I’ll go out of my way to watch any movie with J.K. in it, no matter how small his role. A real treat in The Accountant was Jon Bernthal as Brax. I had only known him as Shane from the first few seasons of The Walking Dead, and didn’t really have an opinion of him one way or another. Here, he really shined, and I don’t think the part could have been any better cast. I’ve heard good things about his performance as the Punisher in the Marvel Netflix Daredevil series which I believe has earned him a spin-off solo series, so I look forward to watching those too.
Quite entertaining, and it threw a few twists at you along the way as the suspense and the mystery deepened. Who was eliminating the fraud suspects? Wolff? Brax? It wasn’t 100% clear until the end. What were Agent King’s interests in Wolff? Did they have a past? Who was the computerized voice that appeared to be working for Wolff, but was also seemed to be giving tips to the Treasury Department? All these led to a very solid action-thriller….which is nothing what real accounting is like I’m told.
Bottom Line: The final shootout scenes reminded me a lot of John Wick, which is never a bad thing.
Gone Girl is the latest film to get my five star approval. Fantastic acting and casting as David Fincher directs Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in this excellent story based on Gillian Flynn’s novel. Flynn also wrote the screenplay which I think was a wise move as the book certainly has a large fan base. Truth be told, I hadn’t even heard of it, but a co-worker had been going on about the novel for some time and was quite excited about the movie since it was was announced.
On the day of his fifth anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) gets a call at work from his neighbour that his cat is outside and his front door is open. Rushing home to find out why his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) has left the door open, he discovers a broken table, an overturned ottoman but no wife. Beginning to fear the worst, he calls the police who immediately treat the house as a crime scene. Amy has gone missing. As the investigation unfolds, we learn of Nick’s infidelity (with a young student Emily Ratajkowski), financial problems, and general apathy with Amy in general and their marriage in particular. All the while, Nick is smugly smiling his way through press conferences and interviews as the clues that Amy has left for their annual anniversary treasure hunt, begin to reveal the darker side to their relationship. When the police find Amy’s semi burnt diary with the final entry saying she’s afraid of her husband and would feel better if she had a gun, Nick looks more and more guilty of murdering his wife.
The film (and book) are filled with excellent characters, such as the Elliotts, Amy’s parents (David Clennon and Lisa Banes) who come from New York to help with the search. The couple are a pair of psychologists who rose to moderate fame and fortune by writing a series of children’s books called “Amazing Amy” which were based on their idealized thoughts of their own child’s life. When Amy got cut by the volleyball team, Amazing Amy made the varsity team. When Amy gave up the cello, Amazing Amy became a prodigy. There’s Desi Collings, an ex-boyfriend turned stalker of Amy’s (Neil Patrick Harris) who may have had something to do with her disappearance, and Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry), the high priced lawyer who has made his claim by successfully defending “wife murderers” in the past. I particularly enjoyed Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin sister Margo (or Go for short).
MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD
In anticipation of the film, I borrowed the book and quickly finished it. My friend at work had been really talking the book up, and saying that there was a twist in the middle that just about floored him. Well, there was a twist, but it was one that I could see coming a mile away as I was reading up to it. I suppose I’ve read and watched a few too many mysteries because the reveal that Amy had disappeared on her own was not overly surprising to me. I will say though that there was a twist at the end that I did not see coming which made the already enjoyable story that much better for me.
In the second act, we find out that Amy is a brilliant and methodical planner who has been aware of her husband’s lies and has set him up to take the fall for her murder. Writing a false five year diary and painting herself as the loving, neglected, and eventually abused wife; leaving a paper trail of credit card debt and insurance premiums that point ever closer to Nick Dunne being a killer; Amy it appears is not a woman to scorn. When her plans go awry, she always has a Plan B, C and D it seems. Manipulating the investigation with the clues she’s left, Amy Elliott Dunne is not at all like the Amy in her diary. Rosamund Pike delivered an excellent performance showcasing the duality of the role and has now been Oscar nominated for Best Actress. I am a little surprised that Ben Affleck didn’t get an acting nomination as he did a fantastic job too. As I was watching the film, I completely forgot he was Ben Affleck, he was just Nick Dunne, which I think shows how good a job he did.
If you’re in the mood for a mild suspense thriller with excellent acting, and a top notch story, you won’t be disappointed with Gone Girl. Fincher’s film was nearly two and a half hours, and I did know what was going to happen each step of the way, having read the book, but it didn’t feel like it dragged at all.
Bottom Line: Gone Girl, is not just a mystery thriller, it is really a satire on marriage. Nick and Amy both fell in love with false versions of who each other was. They both really deserve each other in the end, because they’ve committed themselves to living as their fantasy selves.
This year, I’ve only seen a handful of movies that are nominated for the Oscars this year. Of those (Hobbit, Skyfall and The Sessions) none were nominated for any of the “main” awards; well, except The Sessions I suppose, with Helen Hunt being nominated for Best Supporting Actress; but none were up for Best Picture. This year, of the nine nominees, the only two I was remotely interested in seeing were Life of Pi and Silver Linings Playbook (and that was only after I saw the trailer, the commercial did absolutely nothing to sway my interest). I know I missed Life of Pi at theatres, and I think Silver Linings as well, but I did want to see something before the Oscars and with Argo coming to DVD, I decided to watch it tonight.
Argo has been receiving very good reviews, and has won the Best Picture and Best Director awards at the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes. Without having seen it, I did not think that the picture would have a chance against Spielberg and Lincoln, which seemed to be the early (and critics) favourites to win. Now having seen the film, Argo could headline my picks for the Oscar pool at work. I can see why the film has won the awards it has, and I they are well deserved, that being said, you may ask why I didn’t rate it five stars? It didn’t really do a lot for me personally. It was enjoyable, but a little dry, and I’m not a huge fan of movies “based on true events”, especially when it is a historical event that I was alive for….granted I was only six years old, but I did know how the events were going to play out.
In 1979, the American embassy in Iran was taken over by Iranian revolutionaries and the American staff and diplomats were taken hostage. Six of the workers did manage to escape and hid in the official residence of the Canadian Ambassador to Iran. With limited options, the CIA with the co-operation of the Canadian government devised a daring plan to extract the six “houseguests”. They created a fake Canadian film project led by CIA agent Tony Mendez alias Kevin Harkins, who were looking to shoot their film in Iran and smuggle the Americans out as its production crew. With the help of some trusted Hollywood insiders, a backstory is created for the fake film crew and the fake film: “Argo” a Star Wars-esque film with a Middle Eastern flavour.
It was a little ironic at times to have to view the CIA as the heroes, as when you think about it (and it is touched upon in the film’s opening sequences) the CIA helped create this situation in the first place. It was partially their decades of influence over Iran’s government that led to the corrupt and oppressive regime, eventually inciting the 1979 revolution. It was also nice see some real world cloak and dagger work which was a lot less glamorous than that of James Bond. It’s obvious that dramatic license was taken with some of the situations because looking at it from the outside, an awful lot of coincidences occurred at the climax, and after watching the special features of the DVD we learn that things didn’t play out exactly as Argo shot them, but as we should know, real world climaxes don’t usually equate to Hollywood climaxes.
The story was actually quite interesting and I liked how it all came together. The real world techniques used were what really fuelled the story, and drove the suspense for me. Again, having a film based on real recorded historical events does kind of kill the suspense, but that’s where a skilled director and good script can return them. Fortunately Affleck did manage to do this, and Argo did manage to hold my interest for the most part. I did find that some parts of the movie moved rather slowly, and I didn’t really care for the glimpses of Mendez/Harkins’ personal life, I just didn’t think they fit in this film. Ben Affleck, as I said, did a good job directing, but I didn’t find his acting very good at all. He wore one expression the entire movie, covered up by an ’80s beard and I think when he tried to inject humanity into his character he was forgot what the movie was doing at that time. Instead of being a taught spy movie or a political thriller, a few times he looked like he was trying to make an “absentee dad” redemption film.
Of the rest of the cast, I can only say good things about Bryan Cranston, John Goodman and Alan Arkin. Cranston was excellent and believable in his CIA role, showing some of the life and passion that perhaps Affleck could have shown in his. Goodman and Arkin actually injected a lot of humour into the film, despite the overall serious nature of the situation, with their observational quips on Hollywood being both well scripted and well delivered. Goodman plays John Chambers, a Hollywood effects and makeup artist who has done work for the CIA before; and Arkin plays Lester Siegel, a movie producer who is actually a composite of several Hollywood executives. I find it unlikely that Arkin will win another Best Supporting Actor Oscar as he has already won that same award for Little Miss Sunshine, but if he did win, it wouldn’t be undeserved.
One nice little touch I personally enjoyed was a line near the end of the movie (I don’t think this will be a spoiler, since it is recorded history) when back in the States; Cranston’s character Jack O’Donnell congratulates Mendez on his work and quips “If we wanted applause, we would have joined the circus” and Affleck’s Mendez replies “I thought we did”. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but I thought the line to be a nice nod to John le Carré who wrote Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; thought by some to be the definitive real world spy novel; a story about the British Intelligence agency, that he nicknamed The Circus. When watching the special features, one of the real “houseguests” told of how they were thankful that Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor had such a large library in Iran to keep them occupied in the months before their escape, and that she had read all of his John le Carré novels at the time.