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Matt Damon’s Roughneck Is No Liam Neeson Trying to Spring

Four years after actor-writer-director Tom McCarthy rebounded from the dismal crucial reception of “The Cobbler” to Oscar glory with “Spotlight,” he lastly stepped again behind the digital camera, following up his acclaimed journalism drama with… “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made,” a household comedy that premiered on Disney+ final yr that you simply nearly actually didn’t see. 

And for his follow-up to that movie, the person with the least predictable profession in Hollywood got here up with “Stillwater,” a genre-agnostic semi-thriller that was greeted with cheers and applause at its well-received Cannes Film Festival premiere on Thursday.

Neatly mirroring its director’s type and signature, “Stillwater” is nigh not possible to pin down, taking the broad contours of a stoic-dad-who’ll-stop-at-nothing-to save-his-daughter thriller and subverting them, filling them with a lot texture, humor and emotional consideration that the movie finally ends up extra carefully resembling “Jerry Maguire” than it does “Taken.”

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Matt Damon leads the way in which as Bill Baker, a no-nonsense, God-fearing Oklahoma roughneck, a person so rattling All American that when he rolls up his sleeve to get working you’ll discover the bald eagle he has tattooed on his arm. We open on Bill in a hard-hat and work boots, cleansing up the wreckage of a twister — an act he’s needed to do in his private life time and time once more. “He’s a f—up,” daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin) says of him. “And he always will be.”

Of course, Allison isn’t doing too nice both, as she’s been arrested and charged with a homicide in a case very clearly primarily based on that of Amanda Knox — solely on this case the sufferer was greater than only a roommate, however an untrue girlfriend. Though motive and circumstance factors to her, Allison proclaims her innocence, which suggests it’s time for daddy to get on a aircraft to France — Marseille, right here — to avoid wasting his daughter.

Like Liam Neeson’s heroic dad, Damon’s Bill additionally has a really explicit set of abilities, just for Bill they principally encompass carpentry and common house upkeep, whereas neither sleuthing nor language proficiency determine amongst them. And quickly sufficient, he ropes in single-mom Virginie (Camille Cottin, of “Call My Agent”) to behave as translator and information.   

One sign of McCarthy’s totally different set of priorities: By the time the character arrives in France early within the movie, his daughter has already been locked up for 5 years. Indeed, what incites Bill’s manhunt isn’t his daughter’s arrest, however a letter she writes a half-decade later begging an area decide to intervene as a result of her dad’s lower than the duty.

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From there we’re off to races for this uncommonly languid thriller, which follows a well-trodden path whereas taking loads of detours alongside the way in which. The movie’s two units of screenwriters ought to clue you in to a few of its preoccupations. Credits go to Americans Tom McCarthy and Marcus Hinchey alongside the French duo Noé Debré and Thomas Bidegain, who’ve written alongside Jacques Audiard for the previous decade.

As with that Audiard output, “Stillwater” takes a thriller type and roots it with a deep sense of context and place. For Damon’s American roughneck and for the viewer, the movie is a tour by means of the numerous social, racial and political strata of Marseille. Was Allison’s case sensationalized as a result of she was in a queer relationship? Of course. Was the case much more scandalous as a result of the sufferer was working class and Arab whereas the equally working class Allison was additionally white and American, thus learn as wealthy? Mais oui!

While the script will get quite a lot of laughs out of Bill’s fish-out-water discomfort, neither he nor the locals keep the butt of the joke. Benefiting from two screenwriters with a agency understanding of French tradition, “Stillwater” acknowledges that Damon’s all-American aura is sort of an asset in his pursuit;…

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