Monday, 9 October 2017

Film Review: Robert Pattinson is Oscar worthy in the relentless, adrenaline fuelled Good Time

If Good Time stayed as intense as its opening act is I don't think I'd have made it to the finish line still breathing. Don't get me wrong, the film, directed by Benny and Josh Safdie, is relentless - but it also demonstrates self control, knowing when to dial back and when to crank it up to eleven. Or, in Good Time's case, thirteen. A deafening soundtrack, Robert Pattinson yelling, frantic camerawork - it doesn't sound like it should add up to much. But after this truly bonkers first act, Good Time locates a narrative and starts to move with it.

Connie Nikas (Pattinson) and his mentally ill brother Nick (Benny Safdie) rob a bank together. Their relationship is hardly healthy, Connie is caring towards Nick but he's also manipulative, Nick is too well intentioned and mentally absent to understand. The escape goes wrong, Nick is arrested and sent to Rikers Island, and so Connie tries to free him. The film all takes place over one afternoon/night, not so much unfolding in real time as ploughing through hours like minutes. Good Time is a fast paced film, sometimes arguably too fast, but it's impossible not to get swept up in it all.

The Safdie brothers, who also wrote the script, retain pitch perfect control over the tone of their film. Good Time flirts with a neon aesthetic, but wisely never fully embraces it - it doesn't have the vibrant story to match. The film doesn't shy away from showing a bit of blood, but never gives in to gratuitous violence or brutality either. Benny and Josh Safdie essentially use their first act to lay out all sorts of levels the rest of the film will follow - violence levels, intensity levels, pacing, the volume of the soundtrack. It might sound bizarre, but Good Time is so full on that this first act helps you grow accustomed to what will follow. Few films are as relentlessly hectic but remarkably controlled as this one.

At the centre of it all is Pattinson, who gives the best performance by an actor I've seen all year (bested only by the actress Kristen Stewart, his former Twilight co-star, in Personal Shopper). A film like Good Time doesn't leave much room for acting yet Pattinson still delivers a full performance, adding layers to the character that aren't visible in the film's script. Pattinson is essentially acting in the face of a hurricane here, and he sells the character's chaotic mentality brilliantly. There's a constant worry on his face, a persistent exhaustion in his body language, and yet he keeps Connie going.

What makes matters even more interesting is the way the film depicts Connie as a character. He's introduced to us forcibly removing his brother from a therapy session, and rarely after that does anything done by him help any one else out. Connie is shown as a selfish individual who manipulates and mistreats not only his brother but also friends and others, too. He relies on the kindness of strangers but never gives them anything back, yet the film needs us to root for him because what he's doing involves his brother. Even when he risks slipping into antagonistic territory, Pattinson somehow keeps Connie a worthy protagonist and someone we want to follow. If I could have it my way, he'd be taking him an Oscar trophy in February.

The Safdie brothers make good use of their 101 minute runtime, leaving space to establish and develop supporting characters even in the blur of chaos that is Good Time. Taliah Webster is a scene stealer as Crystal, a helpful teenager who bites off more than she can chew with Connie. Buddy Duress is a blast as a character far too spoilery too discuss in any real detail, but he brings a handful of the film's funniest moments. Good Time explores both of these characters too, it gives them histories and ideas and motives. Connie may be a selfish character, but the film itself is far from it.

Good Time probably isn't for everyone. Mainstream audiences probably wouldn't put up with its loud soundtrack and chaotic energy, but those willing to endure an assault on the senses will be rewarded with something pretty great indeed. Pattinson is the real star of the show, but Good Time has peaked my interest in the Safdie brothers - I can comfortably say I'll be checking out more of their work in the future. Perhaps this film's ending is a tad abrupt, but it soon moves on to a scene that plays through the credits and finds a real heart to put everything you've just seen in context. It seems like Good Time places the calm after the storm rather than before it, and this might just be the best decision it makes.

In A Sentence

Turning a simple premise into a thrilling experience, Good Time is a brilliantly chaotic slice of cinema with a career defining performance from Robert Pattinson.

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