The Accountant Is More Than A Write-Off For Ben Affleck
October 31, 2016
Following a near-decade long stint in mediocrity, Ben Affleck found renewed acclaim in 2006 for his portrayal of George Reeves in Hollywoodland. Since then, Affleck has affirmed his status as one of the best working actor/directors, his work in films like The Town and Gone Girl, some of the most acclaimed of the decade. With Gavin O’Connor’s The Accountant, he continues that string of success, delivering what may be his best performance yet.
At The Accountant’s center lies the titular character, Christian Wolff (Affleck), the go-to CPA for the world’s worst (Wolff’s dangerous clientele include terrorists and arms dealers). Wolff decides to tackle a legitimate job involving a possible leak at a robotics company, headed by tech genius Lamar Black (John Lithgow). However, it becomes quickly apparent that there’s more than meets the eye with Black, forcing the brutally effective Wolff into a confrontation he never wanted. While dealing with that, Christian must also protect a former employee of the company (Anna Kendrick) and contend with a pair of treasury agents (J.K. Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson) and an assassin hot on his trail (Jon Bernthal).
However much The Accountant may seem like a standard, Bourne-style action-thriller, the film is actually a surprisingly contemplative character study. Like with his past works, namely Warrior and Miracle, O’Connor excels at digging for genuine emotion and wringing out the vulnerability of his characters in seemingly macho films. Wolff, a high-functioning autistic man, is one of the year’s most fascinating leads, his attempts at human connection endearing yet deeply saddening in their futility. The character’s made even more compelling by Affleck whose understated performance is a masterclass in less-is-more acting.
That isn’t to say the film lacks action. There may not be as much as found in most modern blockbusters, but what’s there is riveting. Christian’s mechanical precision is captured to extreme effect, particularly in the final shootout, a low-scale set piece with immense staying power.
The supporting cast is largely solid, with Simmons, Bernthal, and Robinson especially strong (Bernthal’s performance improves throughout, a third-act scene between him and Affleck one of the film’s best). Though her screentime is limited, Kendrick brings just enough comedic energy to not override the film’s thoughtful tone. The discovery of the film, however, is Robert C. Trevelier who’s notably subdued performance as Christian’s psychologically abusive father has the potential to be a career-maker.
The film isn’t without its faults, Lithgow’s Black a generic, entirely forgettable antagonist that sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise bravely unique picture. Proceedings also take a turn for the worse in the closing scenes, with one too many reveals weighing the conclusion down.
Gavin O’Connor’s The Accountant is among the most surprising films of the year, simultaneously a gripping thriller and a restrained character study that manages to, through a brilliant performance by Ben Affleck, form one of the most captivating leads of 2016.