Watched May 01, 2012
Carl Ingebretsen’s review:
WOW. Just... wow. This was incredible. I really, really enjoyed it.
Soderbergh really shows what he's capable of here, delivering a slick, stylish, restrained and relatively straight-forward spy thriller with fantastic action scenes and very tense chase-scenes. There's a scene in this where the Main Character is walking down a street that had me on the edge of my seat.
This is probably going to be over-praise, but this is the "Drive" of spy-thrillers. Sure, it's not as uniquely superb as Drive, but it's a quiet and intense spy thriller, with a plot that you've seen many times before, told in a (may I say better) way. The soundtrack's cool (though not as cool as Drive), the action is great and the characters are believable enough. I almost loved this film, and I may end up doing just that after a rewatch. It's a gem - there's not much to think about here, but when you're watching it it's really exciting, intense and just incredibly well-made.
Another way it reminded me of Drive was in the feel of the film - Drive uses music, little audible dialogue and all its other quirks to really make you feel like the character does. It's the same trick Tomas Alfredson pulls in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and Soderbergh uses it here. This is a quietly intense spy thriller, shot with restraint. There's nothing epic and sweeping about it - there are rarely more than two characters in a scene, especially the fight scenes - it's constrained, small, intense and quiet, just like its main character. I've started to love this "trope" - using the film's atmosphere and tone as a way of characterizing the main character. It's incredibly effective, at least in the hands of Alfredson, Soderbergh and Winding Refn.
And that opening scene is a work of art, in terms of writing, directing, acting and choreography. Stunning.