The Card Counter

The Card Counter ★★★★½

Oh man, I have a lot of thoughts on this one. Suffices to say that Schrader is revisiting many of the same themes as he did in First Reformed, chief among them, how do you live your life as a moral man, much less a decent one, while knowing that your life is built on a great crime.

For Ethan Hawke’s Ernst Toller, the crime is humanity’s degradation of the earth, and the conflict concerns his willingness to do something about it. For Oscar Isaac’s William Tell, the crime is his past as a torturer at Abu Ghraib, and the conflict concerns the impact of his actions on a life that had nothing to do with them.

The answer, insofar that Schrader seems to have one, is that there is no way to live decently under the burden of such knowledge but that nonetheless, we have an obligation to take responsibility.

The other aspect, of both films, is the question of whether it is possible to forge an honest connection with another human being, and whether we can accept our obligations and responsibilities while also nurturing that connection. Schrader seems to say maybe not! I am a little more optimistic, I think.