Stillwater Exceeds Expectations

An American Roughneck in Marseille. 

Stillwater was released in 2021 and was directed by Tom McCarthy. The film stars Camille Cottin as Virginie, Abigail Breslin as Allison, and Matt Damon as Bill Baker. An Oklahoma man, Bill Baker, finds a new lead that might prove his daughter’s innocence after being imprisoned for murder in Marseille, France.

Damon shines as Baker, there is never a moment you aren’t invested to see what he does next. The film really takes time to let you know this character, and develop him. Whether you find him in moments where you cheer him on or are disappointed in his actions, you can always understand why he makes each choice. 

Baker’s character arc is very similar to someone like Star-Lord in Avengers: Infinity War, where if he makes big mistakes, it’s something that furthers the story and the world, making for interesting debate after the film. It’s a really interesting look at the classic ‘fish out of water’ story. 

The relationships throughout the runtime are fun to see develop, and felt real. While the uneasy, and somewhat off-putting chemistry is done well between the estranged father and his daughter, Allison herself is never given enough to make you care about her. This can make scenes about her, or with her, drag. However, they work well for the overall narrative

Stillwater’s script is awesome with every scene mattering, either from a character or story standpoint. It’s really impressive to see in modern film. 

You never know where the film is headed next from a story perspective, keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat. There are some moments where it could be argued the pacing is slow, things like montage sequences, but, again, it works for the story trying to be told. 

There are some moments where politics are randomly brought up, but looking at the script structure alone, it’s clear the people working on this film wanted to explore these ideas and themes, even if you disagree with them. 

On the technical side, it mostly blends well together. The score stands out and is a wonderful edition of Mychael Danna’s (Moneyball, Life of Pie) work. It’s subtle, yet persistent. 

Some of the color grading felt flat, which works to make the movie feel grounded, but after so long does drain your eyes somewhat. 

Not everything found in Stillwater is excellent, but you’ll most likely be so invested in the story, that the other stuff doesn’t really matter.

[My grade for Stillwater is a B+]

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