This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film and all thoughts below should be addressed as such. A review of the unedited version would likely be more negative.
It’s time for a dark thriller by Nolan. This film’s a pretty sharp contrast to the light hearted Christmas films that I’ve reviewed of late so it’ll serve as foreshadowing to the horror films coming your way. The film’s battle between Will and Walter is interesting enough and the writing is pretty deep as you would expect. It gets a little too dark by the end though and the film ends on a rather bad note, which ends up hurting the film in the end.
Will is a pretty good detective who is caught in the middle of a rather tricky controversy. His partner wants to sell Will out because otherwise he’ll be the one who is caught in prison. Will has a solid reputation so he wouldn’t be in jail for too long, but the real problem is that many of his cases were dependent on his word so if he becomes a convict, a lot of villains will go free. It’s a tough moral dilemma and Will ends up shooting his partner. It’s an accident, but as the film goes on, Will begins to question whether or not that is really the case. Making things even worse is the fact that he is now being blackmailed by Walter, a villain who murdered a teenage girl. If Walter takes him to justice, then he’ll be freeing many other murderers and if he lets him go, Walter may go on to hurt others. What will Will do?
You can already tell that this is the kind of film where nobody really wins. It doesn’t matter what Will does to an extent, people are gonna get hurt. Now, this is true in life as there are always more villains out there and every choice has its repercussion, but it’s just a little too much if you ask me. I won’t spoil the ending I suppose, but lets just say that it’s verrrry dark. It’s heavily implied that one character makes a certain decision which means that the courts could make another decision that’ll end up with a lot of victims. Now, it’s not a 100% guarantee that the convicts will get out, but as there is no epilogue to the contrary, it’s just a very sad ending. It could have been easily fixed with a single scene at the end where the felons are still behind bars or a judge just says that the old cases are completely shut. It does show why vigilantism won’t work too well in the long run though. The truth always catches up to you and Will learned that the hard way.
The main plot is also rather dark with Walter murdering the girl. Not only did she die, but first she also had an abusive boyfriend who immediately moved on to her friend right after that. The rebounds were strong here and it’s why you can’t always trust sketchy friends from school. I don’t think we needed all of these dark elements. The film was already somber, this just helped to make it grittier and grittier with every scene. Of course, I’d expect no less from a Nolan and Al Pacino team up. Mix dark with gritty…and you get a dark, gritty film.
Will’s a good main character for the most part though. I’m of the opinion that it really was an accident when he shot the partner although the film makes it very ambiguous. You wouldn’t be wrong if you chose either option since it’s up to the viewer to make the final call. It’s a shame that we couldn’t see Will in his prime since he is clearly a very good detective, but doesn’t get to shine since he is being black mailed and manipulated the whole time. Walter’s actually a step ahead of him for the majority of the film, which is rather annoying. It seems like the villains are always geniuses as well in these kind of films.
Walter wasn’t a likable villain, but of course, he’s not meant to be. He’s just there to fill in the antagonist role and give Will an obstacle to overcome. There’s nothing redeeming about him and he’s just another psychopath on who needs to be brought to justice. It’s why you have to remember that someone’s always watching and lies will be found out eventually. In this case, it’s the worst possible scenario as it’s best to be found out by law enforcement or some kind of positive force rather than being found out by a villain. Then they can manipulate you as they please.
Ellie was a good supporting character. You feel bad for her since she looks up to Will and wants to prove herself as a detective, but slowly realizes that he is actually the culprit this time. She really did do a good job and ended up proving herself, but not in the way that she would have liked. Letting her guard down against the villain was pretty sloppy though and Walter really did embarrass just about everyone in this film. Again, it’s why it would have been fun to have a film where she could have teamed up with Will first before this situation had to pop up. No matter, Ellie made all of the right calls and depending on how you look at the ending, maybe she made another one. The decisions were all very hard, but in the end she had to accept the truth, whether or not she liked it.
The other supporting characters were mostly all good as well. I liked the local chief of police as he didn’t want to engage in all of the spying and double talk and just got down to business. He didn’t care about the scandals, he just wanted to solve the case. The local detective was also good and while Will kept on trying to steer him down the wrong path, the detective wouldn’t listen. He did a good job and I can sympathize with him since nobody likes to get pushed out of their job. He didn’t let Will’s legacy intimidate him and he just kept on chugging.
So, the whole film is just rather tragic. You’ve got a lot of good guys and girls trying to solve a murder, but little do they know that one of their own has been compromised. Will does try to break free of the black mail a few times, but Walter’s just too smart. The film also adds another layer to this by having Will murder an animal to try and use a gun’s bullets as some kind of evidence. I forgot the exact purpose of this, but I definitely don’t like to see any dead animals. Upon second thought, the animal may have already been dead and he just put the bullets in it, but I forgot. It wasn’t a pretty sight either way.
Overall, This was a well written movie and a fairly engaging one at that. There’s just only so much that a tragedy film can do and this is an example of a dark film getting too dark. There’s just too much misery here and almost no “feel good” scenes at all. It’s a somber ride from start to finish and it’s definitely not a film that I can recommend because you won’t enjoy it. It’s the kind of film that you simply experience. Cut out a few of the subplots and parts of the main plot…and maybe you’ve got yourself a good film. If you want a thriller with a good battle of the minds, then check out the recent Sherlock Holmes films. Those were actually quite good and also have a lot of engaging mind battles.