Starring: Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Charlie Hunnam
Genre: Thriller/ Lots of Snow
On the run after a botched casino heist, siblings Addison (Bana) and Liza (Wilde) and crash their car near the snow filled landscape south of the American-Canadian border. After Addison shoots dead a police officer (yes, they have been busy) they go their separate ways to the border on foot. Liza manages to hitch a lift with Jay (Hunnam), himself just being released from prison and harbouring secrets of his own. An obvious mutual passion ignites between Liza and Jay, and behind his back, Liza gives Jay’s parent’s address over the phone to Addison as a rendezvous point. As the body count piles up for Addison, and the local police force circle on him, he as well as Jay and Liza head for Jay’s parents house for what will prove to be a thanksgiving meal from hell when everyone’s loyalty and bravery will be tested.
When watching Deadfall there was one word that seemed to constantly enter my mind and that was: ‘competent’. The writing, the directing and the acting were all simply competent. Deadfall is an extremely watchable but even more extremely textbook thriller that for me was always good, but never seemed to even want to try to be any better.
This was a shame as the snowy landscape provided a very scenic and moody setting and Eric Bana seemed to be really enjoying himself in a rare role as a nasty piece of work, and (dodgy Southern drool aside) he is pretty good. In fact, the entire cast are all on good form and Deadfall boasts an array of interesting characters. They all get their own subplots (incest, redemption, proving the doubters wrong), but this is never dealt with any detail, but enough for me to want to spend time with them and be genuinely interested what happens to them next. Again, the word ‘competent’ just seems to be appearing in flashing lights and stamping on my foot for good measure.
Plot wise, Deadfall contains so many contrived and convenient moments, and character decisions that at times it all feels so neat and tidy that even Dickens would be asking “really?” All dramas of course require a certain amount of coincidence, but Deadfall perhaps goes too far at times and does verge on lazy that it is painfully easy to see what is happening next, and this being a thriller, does mean that some of the edge and intensity is taken away. The film contains some interesting themes such as loyalty, family and defying the odds, but again it almost feels that these are more in the narrative by accident than actually with intention from screenwriter Zach Dean. As we near the Thanksgiving meal from hell where all our characters will be in the same room, it never truly grips, but is always intriguing. It is just a shame as a few rewrites could have improved this and really grabbed us by the scruff of the neck.
Formulaic and generic as hell, with far too many contrivances and conveniences in its plot seriously harming its credibility as a genuinely intense thriller; Deadfall is nevertheless an extremely watchable, enjoyable and atmospheric little thriller with interesting (if sometimes underwritten and clichéd) characters that will certainly make you want to put the heating on.