Hugo Weaving has become something of a well-known actor, thanks to prominent roles in both the Matrix trilogy (as Agent Smith) and the Lord of the Rings trilogy (as the Lord Elrond). The beauty of previously unknown actors starring in international blockbusters is that folks might be inspired to track down their earlier movies. And in Weaving’s case, hopefully people will track down The Interview, a taut, stylish thriller.
Weaving is Eddie Fleming, a recently unemployed divorcee who lives by himself in a one-room apartment. Without warning, the police break down his door in the early morning, haul him down to HQ, and throw him into an interview room with Detectives Steele (Tony Martin) and Prior (Aaron Jeffery). Fleming is practically reduced to tears under Steele’s cool, calculating questions and Prior’s physical intimidation.
Under that pressure, he begins to confess to a number of graphic, brutal murders. Or is he simply telling the detectives what they want to hear so they’ll stop intimidating him. Are the detectives catching him in an intricate web of crime, or is he catching them in an intricate web of misdirection. Meanwhile, outside the interview room, Steele, who is already in hot water for his interview techniques, is under pressure to get results in his cases — presumably so his superiors look better to the press.
It’s all wheels within wheels, constantly asking who is playing whom. Right when you think you’ve figured out a character, something happens that, if you’re observant, makes you completely reassess the situation. Sometimes there are legitimate twists, but oftentimes, it’s something subtle — a facial tic, the way someone handles a cigarette, the way they shift their feet under the table.
Those looking for a cleancut “the good guys always win” ending — whoever the good guys might be — will be disappointed. The Interview is much more ambiguous, as it focuses more on the workings inside the mind, the power struggles within relationships, the way that power can be abused and manipulated, what lies might be told or believed in pursuit of the truth, etc. Although there is an alternate ending on the DVD, with something a bit more cleancut, you realize there’s no way the film could end like that — it would feel like a cheat, a copout. And besides, even the film’s director, Craig Monahan, thinks it’s crap.
The Interview brings up obvious comparisons to The Usual Suspects, but it has far more sense, style, and cleverness than that comparison gives it credit for. Much of that has to do with Weaving, who does a wonderful job of shifting the viewer’s sympathies — one minute, he’s a pathetic nobody caught up in a Kafka-esque situation, the next, someone who could plausibly be a serial killer.
It’s a brilliant performance, and one that’s lacking in the over-the-top tendencies of his more famous roles, but instead goes for something much subtler and restrained. Futhermore, Weaving is responsible for one of the best “final shots” I’ve seen in a movie all year. Depending on what you think of him, it’ll fill you with glee and/or revulsion.
“Stylish” is a word that could be applied with The Interview, but it’s a style that feels quite natural. Some films ooze with style, obviously placed there to make it look cool. But here, the style feels organic. Sure, there’s plenty of slow-motion and clever camera movements, but in a film this tightly woven, they all have weight and meaning to them. The film’s use of lighting and shadows is also quite good, further implying that in a world as murky and convoluted as the one in the interview room, the line between fact and fiction, truth and lies is a blurred one at best. Everyone’s hiding something, for better or worse, and the results either way could be tragic.
All in all, a fabulous little gem that deserves much more attention than it’s probably received to this date. If you were at all fascinated by Weaving in his other, more well-known roles, rent The Interview. You haven’t seen anything yet.