The Card Counter

The Card Counter ★★★½

Some of this didn’t quite land for me, mainly due to awkward casting, but a few things seriously elevated the material. Most obvious is Oscar Isaac, who is fully locked in and utterly captivating every moment he’s on screen. I found the Guantanamo flashbacks functioned as a visceral waking nightmare that disturbed in a way that didn’t feel “movie-ish” but rather honoured how horrifying and surreal the experience must have been. (Also couldn’t help but think of Schrader’s takedown of Redacted, as though here he was responding directly to De Palma by visualizing how to truly capture the horrors of modern war). Those scenes charged the film with a power that I felt fuelled its strongest trait: the depiction of an America positively trembling with a collective PTSD, quivering with the pangs of brutal sorrow, and lost to the illusion of complete separateness, of spiritual bankruptcy. In painting the margins of every frame with such fear and trembling, The Card Counter emerges as a powerful modern noir that is as haunting as it is haunted.

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