Total Film




Does Matt Damon’s latest venture run deep?


Amanda Knox doesn’t have a story credit on Tom McCarthy’s latest. But it is clear from the off that her conviction, imprisonme­nt and later exoneratio­n for the murder of fellow student Meredith Kercher sowed the seeds for this brooding drama about an Oklahoma constructi­on worker (Matt Damon) determined to prise his daughter (Abigail Breslin) from the Marseille prison she has spent the last five years in for ostensibly killing her girlfriend.

Damon’s Bill Baker isn’t rich, has no connection­s and can’t speak French. But he is tenacious, dogged and good with his fists, attributes that not only persuade actor Virginie (Camille Cottin) to take up his cause but also help him track down a mystery man who might hold the key to his daughter’s liberty. Spotlight director McCarthy skilfully cranks up the tension as Damon – beefier and craggier than he was in his Jason Bourne heyday – entangles both Virginie and her own daughter Maya (a scene-stealing Lilou Siauvaud) in his Taken-esque quest. Yet he also finds time for politics: co-writers Thomas Bidegain, Noé Debré and Marcus

Hinchey make sure that Damon’s blue-collar hero carries some Trumpian baggage on his cross-Atlantic journey.

It’s certainly hard not to think of The Donald as this obsessive dad tramples roughshod over local sensibilit­ies, takes the law into his own hands and seriously contemplat­es pinning the murder on a blameless immigrant. This, however, is merely a precursor to the kinder and wiser Bill we see gradually emerge – a corrective, clearly, to the erstwhile president’s divisive MAGA rhetoric.

Yet no sooner has Bill earned a place in Virginie’s home and heart with his Maya-minding skills and bathroomfi­xing abilities (Basin Bourne?) than a gigantic coincidenc­e occurs that puts Stillwater firmly back on to a thriller footing. The machinatio­ns that follow stretch the plot’s credibilit­y to breaking point, testing the tolerance in a way that could prompt derisive sniggers from less forgiving viewers. Fortunatel­y, Damon’s sturdy presence just about holds it together, while Breslin shows some impressive dramatic chops as the daughter who is too aware of his failings to see him as her saviour. By the end, though, the still waters McCarthy seeks to navigate don’t run deep so much as dry – a consequenc­e, you suspect, of trying to cram too many genres into one star vehicle. Neil Smith

 ??  ?? Bill was starting to think he’d been given the wrong directions to B&Q.
Bill was starting to think he’d been given the wrong directions to B&Q.
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