Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Accountant: Part Slick Spy Novel, Part Skillful Detective Page Turner

Movie Review: The Accountant (2016)
Version: Library Borrow

Christian Wolf is in the cross hairs of the Treasury Department, so this is a mystery. Bad guys are in Christian Wolf's cross hairs, so this is a thriller. But The Accountant is so much more than a mystery thriller. It's a deep exploration into Christian Wolf as a character that led up to these cross hairs in a complex plot line that switches back and forth over decades exploring his childhood growing up severe autism and his life as an accountant for average Americans but more importantly for gang lords and international money launderers.

Dana Cummings is the special agent for the Treasury department tasked by Director Ray King to track down Wolf. Cummings has a questionable past, which she lied about on her security application, but she turns out to be as good a field agent as the analyst she's been hiding as, and King blackmails her into pursuing Wolf to save her job. Part of the mystery is why.

Wolf is played deftly by Ben Affleck as a quiet, socially awkward accountant with amazing math and pattern-recognition skills. Anna Kendrick is excellent as Cummings, the unsure analyst thrown into field work with the threat of discovery hovering over her head. J.K. Simmons is the consummate brash lead investigator begging for a comeuppance. Then we are introduced to Lamar Blackburn, a billionaire prosthetics developer played by John Lithgow, who can play a bad guy as deliciously as a good guy, so you don't know till it's too late which his character is, and his brash body guard Brax, played by Jon Bernthal. And the plots thicken and twist.

What's remarkable about this film is the way it interplays between slick spy novel with tones of superhero mythos, skillful detective page turner with tones of urgent FBI manhunt, and caring romantic study of the life of an autistic child who is forced to grow into a productive life. Wolf's father is a military man who hires martial arts experts to train his sons in self defense because he fears they may be abused or taken advantage later in life, then encourages them to street fight bullies who have made fun of them in school. The result is that Christian Wolf is still autistic but he can handle the world but the world isn't ready for Christian Wolf.

There are lots of amazing scenes of Wolf's early years that demonstrate severe autism and its effects on children and their families. In one early scene, Wolf is working a jig saw puzzle with the picture side down and nearly completes it by pattern recognition alone, but one piece is missing and he goes ballistic. He must complete the puzzle! It takes another autistic child watching him to calm him down. This scene is key to later in the film as Wolf requires closure on the things he starts and deals with the people in his life. If you have ever wondered about people with autism, this film is an interesting exploration of their world.

This is one of Affleck's better movies. He doesn't come off wooden in it. It paces well for two hours and eight minutes. And the ending is full of surprises. I can highly recommend The Accountant for audiences teen and older. There are some scenes that may be a bit scary for kids, not to mention lots of martial arts and gun shots to the head.

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