"Don't be confused, it's just gonna make things worse for me."
It’s great to see a talented filmmaker reach a stage when a movie they craft can well and truly break out, putting their name on the map and establishing themselves as talents to watch out for. It’s a common misconception that this will be their debut as quite often filmmakers have to a point where one of their films hits a wider range of success. The biggest names working today like Damien Chazelle and Denis Villeneuve have both been present in the film industry for some time despite reaching huge levels of fame in recent years. Hopefully ‘Good Time’ is a break out film for its makers.
After a botched bank robbery lands his younger brother in prison, Constantine Nikas (Robert Pattinson) embarks on a twisted odyssey through the city's underworld in an increasingly desperate and dangerous attempt to get his brother Nick (Benny Safdie) out of jail. Over the course of one adrenalized night, Connie finds himself on a mad descent into violence and mayhem as he races against the clock to save his brother and himself, knowing their lives hang in the balance.
Above all else ‘Good Time’ is one of the most refreshingly stylistic movies you are likely to see in 2017. Not only is it clear that the directors Ben and Josh Safdie are intent upon creating their own distinct voice in how they make their movies but they employ that style on a consistent basis throughout the movie. Each stylistic choice within ‘Good Time’ feels consistent with the story the movie is telling as well as each subsequent scene in the movie. What makes it even better is how it very clearly was not a case of style substituting for substance, but rather style reinforcing the substance.
There’s no doubt that the plot of ‘Good Time’ lends itself to an exhilarating and heart pumping atmosphere. But still I have to commend that Safdie brothers for evoking that sense so acutely. I found myself on edge for the entire movie, never knowing where the plot would turn next and feeling every passing second with which the characters had to deal with the situation they had dug for themselves. You’re constantly aware of the ticking clock and always focussing upon how the characters are dealing with the escalating drama.
This is where the style of the Safdie brothers further complements the movie. Their use of long takes and close ups help create an instant sense of discomfort when they need them to. The long takes serve to make the time constraint feel even more prevalent, as just the action of a character running from one destination to another is made to feel excruciatingly long when it’s conveyed through one continuous take. Then the close ups serve to put added pressure on the characters, forcing us tight into their peripherals as the world around them goes rushing by.
The style also serves to enhance the raw look of the world crafted in the film. This vision of New York feels reminiscent of the one Martin Scorsese brought us in ‘Taxi Driver’. There’s real grime and grit to it that never goes unnoticed by the filmmakers. It’s a perfect mix of heightening the realism of the world in which the movie takes place but also stylising the way in which we are presented with the story. It’s a tactile world with real consequences. Even the editing and shot composition seems to reflect this with a style that is fast paced but never unclear in what it presents us with.
What further elevates ‘Good Time’ are the terrific performances from the cast, in particular that of Robert Patterson who gives what I’m confident in calling the best performance of his career. If I can make another comparison to ‘Taxi Driver’, I commended Robert De Niro in terms of how much courage it takes for an actor to portray a character in such a brutally honest manner, especially if it’s one with severe flaws. Not only is Patterson’s character flawed, he’s downright despicable. Beyond having an affection for his brother he basically lacks any redeeming qualities, and yet Patterson never seems desperate to make his role seem likable or sympathetic. While it does make for a protagonist that’s tough to empathise with, the movie makes it clear that it’s not the kind of movie where you root for the hero to succeed.
By putting limitations upon itself the script ensures that there is never a dull moment. Much like the characters it allows itself to be constantly moving due to the premise it quickly establishes. What is even more impressive is how any exposition and drama that the film evokes flows naturally from the plot. The narrative never stops to allow the movie to explain something to the audience, it keeps the pace up and the tempo quick, with the end result being one of the best thrillers as well as one of the best films of the year.
Stylish, energetic and highly involving, ‘Good Time’ is one of the year’s best.