Life & Culture

Film review: Sharper - 'a deliciously playful debut feature'

An unpredictable thriller full of sharp turns


Cert: 15 | ★★★★✩

Golden Globe, Emmy and BAFTA-winning director Benjamin Caron’s Sharper isn’t so much a film with a big twist, but rather one with a dozen little ones. Famed for his extensive collaboration with popular TV illusionist Derren Brown, Caron, who has also worked on Star Wars series Andor, Sherlock and The Crown, has now delivered a killer debut feature which is set to premiere on Apple’s streaming service this weekend.
When charming book store owner Tom (Justice Smith) falls in love with bright and beautiful new customer Sandra (Briana Middleton), he has no idea that his life is about to take a rather eventful turn. Meanwhile, rich boy waster Max (MCU regular Sebastian Stan in full-on villain mode) is at war with his mother Madeline (Julianne Moore, as brilliant as ever) over her new relationship with billionaire widower Richard (John Lithgow). As drug addict Max is paid off to stay away from his mother, it soon transpires that all isn’t quite as it seems.
Without wishing to divulge any of the intricately constructed twists and turns, it has to be said that there is a lot about Sharper that feels both deliciously playful as well oddly familiar. Caron and screenwriters Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka deliver a masterclass in how to lay out a complex premise while managing to successfully avoid the usual pitfalls of such narratives.
Granted, even those with a loose interest in such capers will eventually manage to piece the whole thing together well ahead of the film’s eventual denouement, but Caron et al should be commended for bringing a fresh flourish to a genre that has often been let down by lazy storytelling.
While Sharper’s genius resides in its ability to successfully outwit its audience, at no point does it feel laboured or in the least predictable. And even if the pay-off may not be the most original, there is still a lot more to love about this narrative’s barefaced audacity.

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