"“A thrilling ride from start to finish...”"
Deadfall, a thrilling ride from start to finish, tracks two siblings, Liza (Olivia Wilde) and Addison (Eric Bana), as they attempt to flee the country having robbed a casino, a plan which inevitably takes a nasty turn. The two are forced to part ways after a car crash; Liza hitches a ride from ex-con and former boxer, Jay (Charlie Hunnam), while Addison navigates his way through the woods on foot. Meanwhile, local cop Hanna (Kate Mara), inadvertently stumbles across Addison’s trail, much to her Sheriff father’s dismay. Their escape journey ultimately intertwines the lives of three separate families over a Thanksgiving dinner, in this action-packed psychological thriller.
A significant portion of the film is devoted to exploring the complex relationships between brother and sister; father and child; boyfriend and girlfriend. There is definitely something unsavoury going on between Addison and Liza, further developed by Eric Bana’s layered and chilling performance. However, it is this dynamic that becomes compromised as Liza becomes romantically involved with Jay. Jay, in turn, has a rocky relationship with his father (Kris Kristofferson), while his mother (Sissy Spacek) has invited him home for Thanksgiving in the hope that everyone will just get along. Hanna also struggles with her dad (Treat Williams), a misogynistic, authoritarian and just generally dislikeable figure.
In some respects the film echoes the Cohen brothers’ crime thriller Fargo in its depiction of graphic violence, often offset by black humour, and using the backdrop of America’s snowy Midwest. Deadfall’s artful cinematography plays an important role in adding to the film’s sense of realism. Moreover, the snowmobile chases, knife fights, and shootouts keep you on your toes. Deadfall also features a strong cast, with Bana and Wilde in the leading roles and notable supporting performances from Mara, Hunnam, and Spacek. The actors, however, are occasionally held back by weaknesses in the script. Attempts to develop the relationships between the various characters lack a certain necessary subtlety and as a result come off as clichéd or, at worst, just plain weird. In this sense, screenwriter Zach Dean might have profited from the “less is more” idea. Additionally, we never quite work out who we’re supposed to root for either, which is a testament to Bana’s acting, but a criticism of the script. Having said that, Dean does do a fine job structuring the film in order to build up suspense and keep us engaged.
All in all, Deadfall is a solid film, owing its success largely to its cast as well as the skilful direction of Stefan Ruzowitzky. Although not his strongest film, he will have you clinging to the edge of your seat as he plunges you into a dark and perilous Michigan blizzard. It is a thoroughly enjoyable film and worth seeing.