Directed By Steven Soderbergh
Starring – Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Jon Hamm
The Plot – A group of criminals are brought together under mysterious circumstances and have to work together to uncover what’s really going on when their simple job goes completely sideways.
Rated R for adult language throughout, some violence and sexual references
– Evolving direction. Soderbergh continues to be one of the best visual storytellers for all time, mainly for his capabilities to evolve his signature style with each passing film. “No Sudden Move” is certainly no different in this regard, deconstructing familiarity for a combination of complex angles, various lighting schemes, and even a tonal consistency that makes the most of its material. Soderbergh enriches the experience in a constant paranoia, speaking volumes about how little we know of each respective character, which effectively immerses us in the urgency of the narrative that occasionally reaches suffocating levels of satisfying pay-off. Because of such, it provides one of the more consistently focused and beneficially engaging experiences in the storied director’s more than thirty year career, solidifying a compelling story with substantial visual flare to add towards the experience.
– Period piece production. In setting this film in 1958 Detroit, at the height of the automobile swing for sales domination, the visualization can properly channel the kind of timely authenticity in wardrobe, automobiles, and set design choices that transport us to a particular age in the cities identifiable evolution. What’s most respectable is that the visuals themselves don’t feel distracting or heavy-handed in the way they appear in frame, instead serving as a landscape of backgrounds to play all the more cohesively with stern social commentary taking shape in the unraveling of the storytelling. It’s a bit surprising that the film doesn’t use a single selection of 50’s Motown to influence its believability, but for my money a soundtrack is the easiest manner of illustrating transformative capabilities, and the production’s decision to not delve in such a desperation allows them to prove it in visual captivation that eases us into the device.
– Casting perfection. There are no shortages of Grade-A talent investing their energy and dedication to the vast personalities of their eclectic characters, but for my money it was the work of Cheadle, Del Toro, and Hamm that forcefully steal the show each time they invade the screen. Cheadle is channeling a tweaking of his voice that bares witness to the gritty nature of his demeanor, persisting diversely without a shred of unintentional humor to the rendering. Del Toro is once again mesmerizing, perfecting a wild card of a criminal whose words are so minimally reached for that they become all the more important and captivating when he does release them. As for Hamm, there’s varying degrees to his portrayal as this lawman that I truly believe are some of the best work of his entire career, maintaining a confidence in the pursuit that simultaneously illustrates the internal struggle of the many masters he serves. There are other casting choice surprises that I will save on spoilers, but one such one during the third act provides some long-winded diatribes that are some of my favorites of 2021, and speak volumes to the gentrification that was and unfortunately still is a problem in Detroit’s near future.
– Unpredictable. Not since the whodunnit’s? of the late 90’s/early 2000’s horror slashers, has a movie dazzled me with a variety of carefully placed twists and turns to catapult a balance of urgency and vulnerability to the plight of its characters. Not only do these untimely arrivals craft a further ambiguity to the characters, but they constantly elevate the stakes in a movie where every character is driven by greed, deception, and the pursuit of the promised American dream, forcing each of them to approach it in ways that doesn’t feel obvious to them, nor us, at the time of their arrival. Most nourishing is that an abundance of twists for this movie doesn’t lessen the impact of each of them by film’s end, instead saving the bulk of its firepower for the riveting third act, where the simmering of each ingredient in character reaches a simmering inevitability that serves as the reaction of every action previously established.
– Meaningful characterization. As I previously mentioned, this gifted ensemble is certainly not wasted in their dedication to the story, each receiving an ample amount of invested screen time that only elevates their importance to the progression of the narrative. This works wonderfully not only towards the level of their familiarity in off-screen celebrity, ideally in the dynamic of several dream encounters for me personally, but also leaves a longer lasting impact whenever any of the characters meet their untimely ends. Because we learn to care more about the characters, we care more about what each of them bring to the level of the conflict, giving this HBO exclusive a big screen appeal that serves as a result of a further fleshing out of literally everyone involved.
– Complimenting tone. Most of the consistency in the story’s narrative remains serious and gripping by its part action, part drama enveloping, but what I found as the sweet surrender to the delight of the experience was an underlining layer of dark humor that kept me constantly engaged in the depth of the dialogue. To be fair, nothing is overtly humorous in a way that compromises the integrity of the unpredictability factor that each scene elicits, instead creating these pockets of nourishing levity that keep it from being an overwhelmingly disparaging experience. Beyond that, each temporary reprieve is simply just that; temporary, materializing in these brief instances within the awkward interactions of robberies, infidelity, and every other improper measure created from imperfect people that grants the material an almost self-aware feeling of cynicism, all the while playing into the elements of the environment that Soderbergh articulates accordingly.
– Attained information. The exposition in this movie is among my favorite kind that cinema can conjure up because it rewards audiences firmly invested in its story, instead of making each important element an obviously intended speed bump on a telegraphed path through its three act structure. The grains of truth themselves are almost rendered with unimportant ignorance, appearing in between conversations of more importance to these characters, but it’s those same afterthoughts that we the audience take stock in, especially in fleshing out what little we know about these dangerous con men. Sometimes answers don’t even appear immediately, as the abundance of information learned during the third act is the most valuable to the series of cryptic movements previously dispersed in the movements of the story. It maintains an authenticity that very few films competently capture, all the while magnifying a bigger picture that grants us insight into the backstories of the characters.
– Inconsequential ending. Don’t get me wrong here, there are deaths, and there are many balances of power on our way to where the story concludes. However, the final five minutes of the film are easily the weakest for me, especially considering the many combustible elements that this story was constantly juggling on its way to a riveting climax. It’s certainly playing towards the abundance of aforementioned social commentary that I previously mentioned, but the stagnant positioning of where we leave our characters leaves plenty more to be desired, especially considering that there were so many directions that this story could’ve wrapped on, and it chose perhaps the only one that left me legitimately disappointed. It doesn’t ruin the overall appeal of the film, but it does leave me with the belief that I will be stopping this movie ten minutes before it concludes, if I ever do watch it again.
– Distracting choice. While I previously commended Soderbergh on the variety of production choices used to stimulate effectiveness and believability to the delight of my experience, there is one that didn’t contribute towards my appeal, and that’s the stylistic choices of the fish eye lens used during scattered sequences throughout the visual storytelling. I can understand the intention was to give the audience a scope vantage point of perception through the various firearms that characters were holding at any particular time, but the distortion of character frames and backdrops fed into a constant distraction for my interpretation while playing to an artistic choice that I feel was completely unnecessary throughout.
My Grade: 8/10 or B+