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Suburbicon (2017)

The Coen brothers reunite with George Clooney to create a dark comedy that sits somewhere on the border of pointless and inappropriate.
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Recap

Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) is a well educated, physically capable young man. Minutes after proposing to his girlfriend, Katrina (Charlotte Vega), the beach they are on is attacked by terrorists. Mitch and Katrina are both gunned down and left for dead. However, Mitch survives and dedicates his life to trying to infiltrate the terror cell that attacked them and take out their leader. During this time, Mitch is depicted as being overly aggressive and single minded in his pursuits. His efforts do pay off and he’s eventually brought face to face with his target. However, before he can get his revenge, a CIA team breaches the compound and kills the man and extracts Mitch.

Mitch ups face-to-face with CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan). Her plan is to use Mitch’s agenda and penchant for violence to help the CIA take out terror cells. She enlists him as a member of a black-ops group run by grizzled veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). Hurley tries to impart to Mitch the importance of sticking to a mission instead of going off book and trying to take everyone down by himself. Hurley also pokes at a lot of Mitch’s sore spots, specifically his emotional attachment to the day that Katrina was killed. There is a constant debate between Irene and Hurley about whether or not Mitch’s tendency to go off on his own makes him an asset or a liability.

While training Mitch and the current black-ops group, Hurley discovers that one of his former trainees has resurfaced after being left for dead on a mission. The man, referred to primarily as Ghost (Taylor Kitsch), has resurfaced and seems to be helping a middle eastern power build a nuclear weapon. With his old protege resurfacing, Hurley is forced to take Mitch into the field to try to stop him, but neglects to tell anyone who Ghost is despite Mitch pretty consistently asking him what the connection is. They are joined in this mission by another agent, Annika (Shiva Negar).

After Annika and Mitch are almost captured by Ghost, Mitch begins to suspect that there is a double agent. It turns out that he is kind of right. Annika is actually a Mossad agent, who also wants revenge on those who are trying to build the bomb. When Hurley is captured by Ghost, Annika and Mitch ignore their orders and race off to save Hurley and stop Ghost. While he’s being tortured by Ghost, Hurley discovers that his true objective is to steal the bomb and use it to get revenge on the U.S. by attacking a fleet off the coast. When Mitch and Annika arrive, they manage to save Hurley and chase Ghost to a boat, where Mitch kills him before dropping the bomb in the water and saving lots of lives.

In the aftermath of the event, Mitch has gone dark, with no one having a true idea where he is. When Irene goes to visit Hurley in his rehab, they talk about Mitch before both getting a panicked look as they realize that he last known location puts him very close to a corrupt middle eastern official. The camera cuts to that official getting into an elevator with an unassuming Mitch Rapp waiting for him.

Other Stuff

  • Unfortunately, the advertising for this movie shows gives away one of the movie’s big punchlines. Before everything falls apart, we see Margaret prepare a poisoned snack. Every ad for this movie has heavily featured a scene with Gardner demonstrably eating that snack. So, when you see it, you immediately know how things are going to turn out for him.

What did I think?

Getting straight to the point, the racism sub plot absolutely kills this movie. Not simply because it is uncomfortable, but because it feels wholly unnecessary. I get that it’s part of the trope of deconstructing the retro-utopia that was portrayed in previous decades. In that way, it does fit the motif of this movie, which is all about recalling and deconstruction that classic, idyllic imagery of America. One problem is that this movie was made in 2017, not the 1950s. Any social potency that would’ve come with that kind of deconstruction has been long since lost. Some people will undoubtedly try to relate this movie to some of the themes of racism to some issues currently gripping the United States, but I’d chalk that up more to coincidence than prescience. Instead this feels like more of a self-indulgent homage; something that someone wanted to make because they liked movies from that era that did things like this without updating it to be relevant in the modern era.

Aside from not being the most timely story, the story of an African-American family facing racism is merely the backdrop to Gardner’s unraveling caper. The two stories run in parallel to each other with one adding almost nothing to the other. In fact, the characters in these two stories are barely even aware of each other throughout the movie. The only real interaction you get is between the two boys, which is probably the point. However, I think even that could be sending a bad message. In the best case, this is just a story of coincidence where multiple things are happening two to characters who are internalizing the effects that these events are having on them. In the worst case, it’s suggesting that being born black in this time period is somehow equivalent to having a sociopathic father who ends up getting your whole family killed. I’m not sure which of these messages was meant to be conveyed or if it was something else in between. The truth is, I don’t really care because there’s no message that makes sitting through that part of the story worth sitting through the rest of this movie.

The really unfortunate thing is that the other half of the movie, the part that was advertised, is actually not bad. It’s a caper reminiscent of something from a Hitchcock movie, filled with dark humor and some A-list actors. A good idea that probably would’ve been made stronger if the time spent cutting away to the sparking of race riot had been spent adding some more depth to the story. Matt Damon, Oscar Isaac and Julianne Moore all provide decent performances in this movie, but it’s hard to really appreciate them because the movie doesn’t really allow their characters to develop. Instead, it just chooses to reveal the kind of characters that they have been the entire time without really giving you any reason for their actions or behavior.

There’s more I could say about all of this but, when it comes right down to it, this whole movie was just one big miss for me.

Suburbicon (2017)

Suburbicon (2017)
5.1

Plot / Story

5/10

    Characters

    5/10

      Visuals

      7/10

        Music / Audio

        5/10

          Entertainment

          5/10

            Pros

            • Half of a good movie with Matt Damon and Julianne Moore

            Cons

            • Feels more like two different movies that don't mesh together
            • The better half of the movie is underdeveloped in service of a plot line that no one needed.
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