The Stranger by Thomas M. Wright [9/10]

Australian actor-turned-writer/director Thomas M. Wright was not familiar to me until I sank into his latest film, ”The Stranger,” but he is now definitely on my must-watch list, for this is a powerful, powerful movie. Not to everyone’s taste, it unwinds a gritty crime tale in relentlessly arthouse fashion, filmed in stark, murky colors, overlain by a soundtrack of unbearable, creaking techno tension. Joel Edgerton offers a career-best depiction of an undercover cop—intense and troubled—in Western Australia trying to get close to a murder suspect by enfolding him in an intricate, fake web of a new crime gang. The murder of the child, years earlier, is brilliantly woven into the storyline. Sean Harris, however, is the real star of the show: his turn as the bearded, asthma-puffer-wielding suspect, has to be seen to be believed. Alternately anxiously shambling and Manson-reminiscent terrifying, Harris’s portrayal had me literally looking over my shoulder. Thomas Wright eschews all of film’s standard devices of flashbacks, tidy explanatory scenes, and easily dramatic scenes, opting instead for a relentless, documentary-style unfolding interspersed with unexplained dreams and eerie portents of terror. Many will find it too far outside the standard crime thriller genre, but I was swept away. Will The Stranger snap up the awards it deserves? Probably not. But you, dear viewer, should fall under its dark spell.

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