When outsider Henry (Sean Harris) has a chance encounter with Mark (Joel Edgerton) on a plane, he’s offered the opportunity of a lifetime to be taken into a criminal organisation who promise they’ll protect him from his murky past. Meanwhile, a police investigation is underway involving the abduction of a young boy eight years previously. This is writer-director Thomas M Wright’s The Stranger. The premise presents strong ideas that set the groundwork for an intriguing crime thriller. However, messy execution holds this flick back from ever hitting its stride.
The main issue is the non-chronological delivery. Though the revelations being hidden are integral to the plot, the constant back-and-forward between timelines and characters quickly becomes jarring. And with the spiralling plot line brimming with deceptions, following what’s going on becomes a challenge. Thankfully, the pieces do come together during the third act. It’s at this point that The Stranger comes into its own as an intriguing spin on a police procedural. What is puzzling, though, is why Wright didn’t stick to this angle to squeeze the most out of his ideas.
Likewise, the overly serious presentation doesn’t help matters much. All the characters speak in a gruff, macho mumble that can sometimes be almost impossible to understand. The film intends to go for a gritty tone, but with pacing as monotonous as the dialogue, there’s not much substance or excitement to be found until this thriller hits its final act and all the pieces are revealed, which again begs the question of why such an interesting idea is hidden underneath everything else. However, even when all the elements are in play, The Stranger still doesn’t know when to call it quits. A prolonged ending with multiple epilogues undermines the final revelations and ultimately leaves viewers feeling cold and underwhelmed.
There is a good film in The Stranger somewhere. But viewers will have to wade through a lot of clunky chronology to find it.
The Stranger does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch a clip from The Stranger here: