From director Michael Winterbottom, the guy who brought you Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, The Trip, The Trip To Italy, and the TV series “The Trip” comes a movie that asks the daring question: What if you had a suspense thriller where all the elements of suspense and thrill were removed? The answer, unfortunately, is less interesting than the question—although on reflection, I guess that sorta makes sense.
The fine Dev Patel (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Slumdog Millionaire) plays Jay, an uninvited wedding guest who turns out to have been hired to kidnap the bride Samira (Radhika Apte, who also starred with Patel in Lion). He does so, though in the process he kills a guard—I guess armed guards are a thing at Indian weddings—and things end up too hot for Jay’s employer, who was Samira’s boyfriend. Along the way there’s more blackmail, murder and flight, though at no point does Winterbottom stoop to lurid scenes of suspense, using dramatic lighting or music to create an air of uncertainty in the audience.
It’s basically a Jay’s story, as he goes from hard-core mercenary to patsy for Samira, a total alpha male who ends up being taken for everything—though he never realizes it, I guess, as he meekly accepts the fate that Samira heaps on him.
I’m not being sarcastic or ironic here. That’s the story. And it’s fine, for what it is. Both The Boy and I felt like it was half a movie. In the other half, something would normally be revealed about Jay or Samira that changed the audiences’ view of them as characters, and perhaps that would lead to an exciting cat-and-mouse chase, or a high-tension drama where the two confront each other for their various shortcoming. But no, none of that’s in there. One really does sort of feel like Winterbottom, who wrote the screenplay, thinks anything that sensational is beneath him. We never actually learn anything about Jay’s backstory, nor anything that would lead us to believe he would end up where he does. Kind of frustrating in that regard.
It’s basically good performances that take place on the periphery of the action of another story we don’t see.