By Jack Dignan
2016 has been an awfully strange year for movies, a great deal of the big blockbusters coming in a little underwhelming, but while many disagree, I certainly wouldn't say it's been a bad year for movies, and I'm not just saying that because I seem to have thoroughly enjoyed a fair few movies that got negative reviews, even if I was perhaps a little too generous with my Suicide Squad review back in August. There has been a lot of really excellent movies in 2016, and adding to this list is The Accountant, which is yet another film this year that I do not understand the mediocre reviews for. This is one of the best films of the year, no doubt, and if you don't have plans on November 3rd, you do now, and it's to go see The Accountant.
Ben Affleck stars as Christian Wolfe, an exceptional accountant who, time and time again, seems to find himself involved with rather dangerous clients, but that certainly doesn't stop him from getting the job done. He's brought in to investigate a company that's been accused of stealing a large sum of money, and this allows Christian to meet Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), an accountant who works for the firm. While this is all occurring, however, Ray King (J.K. Simmons) and Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) are holding an undercover, somewhat off the books investigation into Christian, trying to uncover just who he really is.
The Accountant is a sophisticated, genre-blending, original story that contains almost everything I love about movies. This is smart cinema, and with the exception of a clichéd line of dialogue every so often, nearly every component of this movie just falls perfectly into place. It's a fast paced, edge of your seat thriller, a deep character study, a dark and violent crime movie, and a serious drama. It's a film with so much going on, and so much going for it, and when all the pieces of the puzzle are put in place, it ends up being one of the year's best movies.
It's a movie that defies genres, and what results is something you've never seen before. It's a combination of so many different things, but none of it feels out of place. It all flows consistently, and the tone they set up is maintained throughout. The film is written by Bill Dubuque, who wrote 2014's The Judge. Just like with The Accountant, The Judge received mixed reviews, but personally, I thought both of them were pretty great movies. With The Accountant, however, it's definitely a step up from The Judge. It's a much more to the point, tighter story, and there wasn't a single moment throughout where I was bored.
What we really get out of this movie is a layered understanding of the character Christian Wolfe. While we do get to learn his backstory throughout, there's always a sense that he's hiding something. We technically know who he is, but we don't really know who he is, and it's the discovery of his character throughout that adds an extra, quite brilliant dimension to this movie. He's autistic, but the film doesn't use that in a negative light. Instead, it makes autism an important discussion, and this film has a lot of important things to say about the topic.
The entire cast is sensational, each of them giving an absolute stellar performance. Ben Affleck shines in the lead role, but he couldn't do it alone, as the supporting cast are just as great. This is the best film Anna Kendrick has done since 50/50, and her performance here may even top it. J.K. Simmons has always been extraordinary, and despite playing a smaller role, he does exactly what he needs to and more. This man is a legend. Also in the cast is Jon Bernthal, and while I won't discuss his character too much, I really liked what Bernthal brought to this movie. He always had me intrigued, and he goes up and beyond in the third act.
Director Gavin O'Connor, the man behind Warrior, feels confident in what he's directing, and he should be. His direction is eminent, scattering the film with dark undertones, but also occasional dry humour, and the two went hand in hand. His camera work is exceptional, and what he manages to get out of his actors is even better. It's a highly ambitious movie, and the reviews have proven that this ambitiousness may be too much for certain audiences, but for me, it just hit all the right notes, and I beg you to go and see this movie. You don't have to like it, but at least see it to form an opinion on it. It's well worth it.
To sum up, The Accountant is a combination of many things, but they all fall perfectly in line together to make for one of the best films of the year. It's sophisticated, important, ambitious, exciting and an interesting character study. If you don't see this movie, you're missing out.
4 1/2 Stars