Director: Tom McCarthy
Written by: Tom McCarthy, Marcus Hinchey, Thomas Bidgegain and Noé Debré
Starring: Matt Damon, Camille Cottin, Abigail Breslin and Lilous Siauvaud
Tom McCarthy, director of Spotlight, bring a new crime thriller with Stillwater. Without going into the widely documented controversy surrounding this film, is it film worth watching? If you can separate it from reality and see it as its own thing, then there is a decent film here. It’s not spectacular but enjoyable enough.
Matt Damon (The Bourne Series) is fantastic, giving one of his best performances to date as Bill Baker, the American who travels to Marseille to support and try to find proof of his daughter’s innocence. Baker is a quiet unassuming man who has messed up in the past but is doing everything he can to correct that and make up for himself. His relationship with Maya, played fantastically by Lilou Siauvaud mirrors the relationship he wishes he had with his daughter. The moments these two share the screen together are among the best of the entire film. Camille Cottin (Allied, Killing Eve) is also fantastic as Virginie, who helps Baker in his journey.
The characters are incredibly well written, with great dialogue and hints at their past. Much like the opening of the film, nothing is explicitly told to you outright, you discover the plot and the characters slowly piece by piece, slotting them together until it creates the full picture. It’s because of this that the extraordinarily long-feeling run-time of 140 minutes is bearable.
This is a long film, probably too long. There are a lot of scenes that build the characters nicely, but don’t really add anything beyond that. It’s a slow-burn thriller that focuses more on the relationships between the main characters for better or worse. It probably could have be shortened down though, without losing much. Despite that there are some very nice sequences throughout. The day that Baker gets to spend with his daughter Allison, played by Abigail Breslin is one of the highlights. Their strained relationship is perfectly shown through their body language and dialogue. It’s really well shown on screen.
Sadly, the biggest let down of the film is the ending. It feels very rushed and anti-climactic. Things build up with a lot of tension and then it seems to just jump to the end without the steps on how we got there. It makes sense, but after how slow the film was to that point, it doesn’t really keep the pace. If some of the earlier scenes were cut, then the ending would have more time to explain. It does leave a few unanswered questions and that is a shame.
Seeing Stillwater completely as fiction, it is a fine film with some great characters and dialogue. It doesn’t do anything too original, but Damon’s performance makes this worth watching. If only the ending wasn’t so rushed then this would be a really good film.