In a culture ruled by nostalgia and an industry lacking in new, original ideas, The Accountant is a breath of fresh air. Not to say that it is necessarily “original,” but it is refreshing to find a property that is its own entity; it is not based upon a previous novel, comic-book, film, video game, or any property, for that matter. To walk into a mainstream Hollywood film that is its own, wholly original entity completely imagined by the filmmakers at the helm is something to be cherished, especially when considering this is an action film, a genre plagued by adaptations, sequels and reboots. The Accountant is not a trailblazer like 2014’s John Wick, but it is intermittently successful in its execution and craft and it will most likely turn into a franchise, which is rather ironic.
The film begins by throwing you into the suspense and mystery with very little warning. The opening sequence depicts an unknown man, his face obscured by light and camera angles, making his way through the scene of an ongoing firefight. It is made to look as if he wandered onto the scene, entering the front door of the building after the assailant has already made his way upstairs, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.
The sequence is shot in a way that it feels like it were taken straight from a 1930s noir. The contrast is high and the images are grainy, the light even seems to illuminate the unknown man in a kind of halo. While the rest of the film drops the style of this opening sequence, it does continue the same tone.
The next scene cuts to a small accounting office populated by the protagonist Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) and two of his clients, an older couple. Right off the bat we are shown just how awkward and direct Affleck’s character can be. When he asks whether the woman in his office made the necklace she is wearing, she replies, “Yes, do you like it?” Wolff then answers by saying, “Not particularly.” There is a reason he brought up the necklace, and it’s not to compliment her craftsmanship.
Affleck’s performance is fascinating. Playing a character with mental disabilities is always a challenge for any actor. You have to make sure that the line between realistic and offensive is not at all blurred. Christian Wolff lands somewhere on the autism spectrum and Affleck plays the character with tenderness and respect.
The treatment of individuals on the autism spectrum was especially thoughtful here, never portraying them as lesser or overly dependent. The film mostly focuses on Wolff, who suffers from asperger’s syndrome, but it also portrays several other individuals struggling with the disability to varying degrees, especially during the flashbacks to Wolff’s childhood.
Director Gavin O’Connor handles the film with a gentleness and care that is unfortunately absent within many of today’s action films. There is an emotional core to the story and the characters, and O’Connor digs into these aspects to uncover a truly compelling, if somewhat flawed, narrative. Some of the plot twists are rather ludicrous and seem a bit half-heartedly thrown into the story, but, despite their quality, these twists are not thrown in as a gimmick, but as a way of further developing the characters. They are character based and do work in giving the characters more depth to some degree. I guess one could call that an “A” for effort.
3 out of 5