The thought of a film the place Matt Damon performs a scruffy roughneck who travels to a overseas nation and begins stirring issues up in a neighborhood of colour whereas in search of justice for his imprisoned daughter simply lends itself to a Liam Neeson motion thriller, and the perfect factor to be mentioned about Tom McCarthy‘s Stillwater is that it isn’t a Taken knockoff. The issue is that it by no means totally commits to being a lot totally different.
The movie, which premiered this week as a part of the Cannes Movie Competition, is closely impressed by the real-life Amanda Knox case, the place an American school trade pupil — right here, Allison Baker, performed by Abigail Breslin — is imprisoned for the homicide of one other pupil. We decide up 5 years after the preliminary sentencing, with Damon’s Invoice Baker going to France on a routine journey to examine on his daughter. Invoice is the epitome of a red-blooded American roughneck, and he has each the goatee, the camo hat, the black sun shades, blue denims, and even the tattoo of an eagle on high of a cranium with a knife popping out of it to show it. He’s additionally admittedly not the brightest particular person and is usually the underside of the joke, leading to a form of extra critical American Mr. Bean.
Damon by no means totally manages to vanish into the position, however he does play Invoice with sufficient flaws and vulnerability to genuinely make you’re feeling for the man, for some time. He could also be impolite and don’t have any regard for France or its folks, and Stillwater by no means misses an opportunity to remind you the way a lot of a caricature the character is, to the purpose that he is usually requested by different characters what number of weapons he owns or if he voted for Trump. That being mentioned, co-writers Thomas Bidegain, Noé Debré and Marcus Hinchey all the time body Invoice’s character via the lens of his paternal need to assist his daughter, to the purpose the place the moments of bigotry and racism within the movie come from white French characters moderately than Invoice, who by no means expresses something destructive about his daughter’s romantic relationship with an Arab girl (or not less than retains quiet about it).
There’s a feeling of defeat that looms over most of Stillwater. Once we meet Invoice, he is already deep right into a routine of touring to France to go to Allison, and he is very effectively acquainted with the employees on the immigration workplace, the jail visitation workplace, and even the Greatest Western he tends to remain at. Even when the movie hints at a Taken-like story of vigilantism, McCarthy rapidly shuts it down with the intention to commit a lot of the movie to a quiet and nearly meditative exploration of acceptance and second possibilities. These household drama-centric scenes give Damon a possibility to offer Invoice extra depth than simply the craze of a dad or mum taking justice into his personal palms.
The issue is that Stillwater by no means commits to a single tone and even subplot. Simply as quickly because the movie abandons the Amanda Knox-like investigation for the household drama part, McCarthy resorts again to turning into a thriller in a plot improvement that comes out of nowhere and betrays what got here earlier than, almost derailing all the film. In making an attempt to keep away from turning into a single, easy factor, Stillwater tries to be all the issues, overstuffing its narrative with superficial subjects that by no means lead anyplace. There are transient makes an attempt at tackling themes of sophistication and race divisions in France’s oldest and most various metropolis, drawing parallels between it and the U.S, however these are forgotten as rapidly as they’re launched, as is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it depiction of bodily hurt that’s deserted so quick it borders of insulting as a consequence of how critical the subject is to be dismissed like this.
In the end, Stillwater is precisely what its premise urged it might be: a film in regards to the loss of life of an Arab lady being an afterthought for the story of white Individuals wreaking havoc in another country.
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