“Stillwater” review: “A subversion of the thriller tropes”
Tom McCarthy, Oscar director Projector, marks its return to the awards season buzz with its new film Still water. Although marketed as a thriller, McCarthy incorporates several tones into a film that is meant to be incredibly character-driven.
McCarthy hasn’t been one to stray from controversial topics in the past, and Still water is no exception. The film follows Bill Baker (Matt Damon), a thug from Stillwater, Oklahoma, whose ex-daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin) has been wrongfully imprisoned in Marseille for five years for the murder of his ex-girlfriend. He visits her as often as he can, making the trip to France despite his financial situation.
However, that visit turns out to raise tensions with a new witness revelation that raises hopes of proving Allison’s innocence and absolving her from the remaining four-year sentence. This sends Baker in pursuit of the real killer in a desperate attempt to save his daughter. Along the way, the thug stubbornly navigates a society with which he lacks the ability to communicate.
Superficially, Still water looks like your typical Liam Neeson thriller that focuses on the mystery and the pursuit of the killer. And we can quite say that it is for the first act. However, McCarthy unexpectedly subverts this trope through the second act, ending and focusing on the more intimate development of the character. Baker’s search stops and he moves in with his new friend Virginie (Camille Cottin) and his lovely 9-year-old daughter Maya (Lilou Siauvaud). What happens next is an incredibly endearing character exploration sequence through the eyes of Bill Baker. We see him trying to redeem himself as a father figure to young Maya and learning to adapt to a new culture.
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Damon looks stunning in his immersive performance as a Southern oil rig worker who fights for his family at all costs. His co-stars shine at his side, including Siauvaud. Indeed, Damon expressed at the press conference on Friday that the young actress was “the Meryl Streep of 9 years”. As a result, the character dynamics are incredibly natural. Despite the film’s exceptional cast, its tonal changes give the impression of suffering from awkward transitions. The score feels dated and off-putting for a modern film, heavily overwhelming the transition sequences with no real need.
By the end of the second act, the movie felt like it had suffered a whiplash. In some ways, it feels like there are several movies in one. Strangely enough, for those who have seen The secret in their eyes, you will notice a strong inspiration from one of his pivotal scenes in Still waterthe third act. Fortunately, there is a satisfying if bittersweet conclusion to the story of not only how a man from Oklahoma fares in French society, but also how the rest of the world views Americans. over the past five years.
Overall, Still water stands as another Oscar nominee for McCarthy’s filmography. Damon will likely get his next nomination and maybe even win as Bill Baker. It would not be undeserved. – Ileana Melendez
Note: 7.5 / 10
Still water hits theaters on July 30, 2021.
The film stars Matt Damon, Abigail Breslin, Camille Cottin and Lilou Siauvaud.